Soccer

Schalke beats Hertha Berlin to clinch Champions League spot

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The Associated Press
4/28/2012 12:48:26 PM
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BERLIN - Bundesliga top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar struck twice for Schalke to secure automatic qualification for next season's Champions League with a 4-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

Huntelaar scored in the 32nd minute before taking his season tally to 27 in the 88th, with Lewis Holtby and Raul Gonzalez — playing in his last game at home for Schalke — also scoring.

"I don't think we played a super game," Huntelaar said. "We merely played well."

Freiburg's 4-1 win over Cologne saved Hertha from automatic relegation for now. Hertha is two points behind Cologne in the relegation playoff place heading to the final weekend's games.

"Relegation struggle means struggle," Hertha coach Otto Rehhagel said.

Augsburg and Hamburger SV are safe after 0-0 draws at Borussia Moenchengladbach and at home against Mainz respectively.

"It's wonderful what the team has done," said Jos Luhukay, who led Augsburg to Bundesliga promotion last season and previously coached Moenchengladbach. "We've very happy and a bit proud."

Moenchengladbach goes into the Champions League preliminary round — a remarkable achievement after escaping relegation by a whisker last season.

"I know, it's a miracle," Moenchengladbach coach Lucien Favre said.

Borussia Dortmund — which clinched the title last weekend — celebrated with a 5-2 win at already-relegated Kaiserslautern, extending its record unbeaten run to 27 games.

Second-place Bayern Munich defeated Stuttgart 2-0, allowing Bayer Leverkusen to move into fifth with a 1-0 win over Hannover.

Wolfsburg boosted its Europa League hopes with a 3-1 win over Werder Bremen, and Nuremberg won 3-2 at Hoffenheim.

Huntelaar opened the scoring with a crisp shot through Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft's legs, before Holtby finally sealed Schalke's win in the 71st minute.

Raul signed off in front of the home fans with a close-range finish in the 84th, and then headed on a free kick for Huntelaar to score his 46th goal in all competitions this season.

"I have no words to say how I feel. But I think the fans know this, they know I have given everything over the two years," said Raul, a cult hero with 28 goals in 66 league games. "Blue and white forever!"

Cologne failed to take advantage of Hertha's loss despite Lukas Podolski's 47th-minute equalizer after Mensur Mujdza put Freiburg ahead in the 36th. Karim Guede, Daniel Caligiuri and former Cologne player Sebastian Freis finished off Freiburg's scoring.

Cologne, which has conceded 71 goals this season, hosts Champions League finalist Bayern next weekend, while Hertha welcomes Hoffenheim led by former coach Marcus Babbel.

Kaiserslautern took the lead against Dortmund in the 16th, when the unfortunate Felipe Santana deflected Konstantinos Fortounis' cross into his own goal. Lucas Barrios responded straight away, then Ivan Perisic crossed for Barrios to score again. Mario Goetze marked his first start since injury cut his season short in December by scoring for 3-1.

Pierre De Wit pulled one back in the 49th, but Barrios completed his hat trick in the 55th. Perisic combined with Shinji Kagawa to complete the scoring. Dortmund would set a Bundesliga record haul of 81 points with a win against Freiburg at home next Saturday, before it turns attention to the German Cup final against Bayern on May 12.

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes made eight changes to the side that lined up for Wednesday's Champions League semifinal, with Holger Badstuber, Luiz Gustavo and Mario Gomez the only survivors from the team that overcame Real Madrid on penalties.

Georg Niedermeier and Shinji Okazaki both hit the crossbar for Stuttgart before Thomas Mueller crossed for Mario Gomez to claim his 26th goal of the season in the 32nd. Mueller completed the scoring in injury time.

"It wasn't easy for the players to switch back to the Bundesliga, although I must say they behaved very professionally," Heynckes said.

Former Germany captain Michael Ballack was thanked for his service to Leverkusen but began in the reserves against Hannover. He was on the pitch to see Stefan Kiessling score the all-important goal in the 75th.

Joel Matip,  Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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