Goalkeeper Andreas Luthe, furious with himself, stalked into the dressing room, the remaining professionals dragged themselves to their completely disappointed fans with perplexed faces. After a crushing defeat, VfL Bochum is teetering towards relegation from the Bundesliga. The team of coach Heiko Butscher lost 0:3 (0:1) to Fortuna Düsseldorf after a disappointing performance. In front of 26,000 spectators in the Ruhrstadion – including Edelfan Leon Goretzka – the Bundesliga was 16th. Bochum was defensively vulnerable and offensively harmless on Thursday evening. 

“It’s hard after a game like that, after a 3-0 defeat. The boys should work their asses off,” said Keven Schlotterbeck. “We don’t want to get relegated like that.” An unfortunate own goal from VfL striker Philipp Hofmann (13th minute) initiated the defeat. Felix Klaus scored the second Fortuna goal (64th), Yannik Engelhardt the third (72nd). With coach Daniel Thioune, Düsseldorf can complete their promotion on Monday at home against the weak away team from Bochum. 

Anything other than VfL’s seventh Bundesliga relegation would be a huge surprise. “We’ll let them celebrate over there and then strike back on Monday,” said Schlotterbeck combatively. However, the Düsseldorf team didn’t want to celebrate too quickly. “If we score three goals in Bochum, Bochum can do the same in Düsseldorf,” said Marcel Sobottka.

Despite the quarrels surrounding regular goalkeeper Manuel Riemann, VfL seemed ready for this game and had prominent support. Long before that, Pott icon Herbert Grönemeyer encouraged the Bochum professionals via Instagram: “My heart beats with you and my confidence knows no limits.” Shortly before kick-off, his Bochum anthem was played over the loudspeakers. Bochum native Goretzka from FC Bayern also sang along in the stands in a legendary VfL jersey.

The highest-scoring offense in the second division (72) and the second-worst defense in the first division (74 goals conceded) met on the pitch. In addition, the goalkeeper change in the two most important games of the season posed a certain risk for VfL.

Before the relegation, Riemann had not represented the desired views on team issues; for the Bochum bosses, the limit had been crossed. Andreas Luthe moved into goal for the already polarizing Riemann. “He exudes a damn good sense of calm,” praised VfL coach Butscher before the start of the game. Surprisingly, he also left out captain Anthony Losilla in the starting line-up. “Toto is totally behind it. He will still be important,” said Butscher about the veteran.

Above all, it was important to get into the game well against Düsseldorf, who have been unbeaten in the second division since February and in 14 games. VfL, which had slipped into relegation place thanks to 1. FC Union Berlin’s last-minute win on the last matchday, initially succeeded in this.

The hosts were hit all the harder by Düsseldorf’s opening goal, which could hardly have been more unfortunate. Fortuna’s loan player Christos Tzolis circled a corner from the left side with a lot of effort to the near post, from there the ball bounced against the thigh of Bochum’s Hofmann and from there into the goal. Luthe was powerless. But VfL is not helpless. A short time later, Bernardo hit the post after a corner, but the ball then ended up in the hands of Fortuna keeper Florian Kastenmeier. After the turbulent start on both sides, things didn’t really get any more compelling until the break.

Goretzka also had to continue to worry. Especially when the guests from the Rhine almost doubled down. Luthe parried a shot from Klaus spectacularly while lying in the air with one hand. A second goal and VfL’s hopes of staying in the first division would have further diminished, so the team couldn’t be too offensive in their attempt to score an equalizer against Düsseldorf, who played relatively cool and, above all, very disciplined.  

And then it happened and twice. After an inaccuracy in the attack, Bochum’s defense was exposed. Düsseldorf quickly played forward from their own penalty area, Tzolis set up Klaus and this time he beat Luthe. Butscher also sat on the Bochum bench in consternation for a moment. But things got even worse with the visitors’ third goal, where Luthe didn’t look good. “We want to see you fight,” demanded the VfL fans. It did not help. After the final whistle, the players were met with the anger and disappointment of their supporters. Gesturing wildly, some of them behind the gang vented their anger.

Note: This article has been updated several times.