Ballack Helps Bayern Retain Four-Point Lead | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 17.04.2006
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Ballack Helps Bayern Retain Four-Point Lead

Bayern Munich were jeered by fans after the first-half before scoring twice to dispose of Bielefeld. Hamburg stayed on the leaders' heels with a 2-0 victory at Duisburg.


Michael Ballack jubilant over his goal -- and possible departure to Chelsea?

Michael Ballack has been labeled a mercenary for negotiating a free transfer to English champions Chelsea but he showed his loyalty still lies with Bayern Munich, scoring a vital opening goal in their 2-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday.

It was Ballack's 13th league goal of the season, and it means Bayern need just eight points from the final four matches to retain their German title.

"Every goal is nice and I would not say this one was special," said Ballack. "My personal situation is not important. What is important is winning the German title and the cup."

The German international captain Ballack, whose side was jeered off the pitch at half-time, broke the deadlock in the 69th minute. Mehmet Scholl added another for Bayern four minutes later, helping preserve a four-point margin over Hamburg.

While Ballack had a memorable afternoon his international teammate Oliver Kahn had a miserable one after injuring his eye in a freak training ground accident. Michael Rensing, who shot the ball that struck Kahn's eye and had to replace the star goalkeeper. The reserve goalie made an impressive figure albeit Bielefeld rarely threatened.

Fußball-Bundesliga, 30. Spieltag, MSV Duisburg - Hamburger SV

Hamburg's scorer Ailton (l) celebrates with his teammate Khalid Boulahrouz

It was a crucial victory for the reigning champions as Hamburg could have closed to within two points had Bayern only secured a point. Hamburg swatted aside last-place MSV Duisburg 2-0 to stay four points behind the league leaders.

Hamburg took the lead after 24 minutes with Duisburg defender Uwe Moherle scoring an unfortunate own goal. Brazilian striker Ailton, on loan from Besiktas, made it 2-0 six minutes later slotting home after a brilliant defense-splitting pass from Sergei Barbarez.

Schalke lose valuable ground

Schalke gave away two points against lowly Cologne after drawing 1-1, a result neither side could truly use. Cologne's German international striker Lukas Podolski put his relegation-threatened club on top in the 45th minute on an indirect free-kick from close distance after Schalke keeper Frank Rost touched the ball with his hands on a back pass.

Fußball-Bundesliga, 30. Spieltag, FC Schalke 04 - 1. FC Köln

Lukas Podolski's (center) go-ahead goal put Schalke under pressure

The Royal Blues' fan base grew more and more restless as the game wore on and Schalke found the Cologne defense difficult to crack. Zlatan Bajramovic salvaged the ill-deserved point for Schalke ten minutes from time.

Third-place Bremen were unable to take advantage of a ten-man Wolfsburg squad, and returned home with just a point after a 1-1 draw.

The Wolves have been slipping further and further towards the relegation zone, and the situation looked to worsen when Bremen's Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdez opened the scoring in the sixth minute. Klaus Augenthaler's team did not panic and Marian Hristov got the equalizer 17 minutes later. Facundo Quiroga was sent off on a disputable red card just three minutes later, but Wolfsburg fought bravely to take a point.

Goalless draws in Berlin and Frankfurt

Berlin and Dortmund are both fighting for the final Uefa Cup spot up for grabs in German soccer. Brazilian playmaker Marcelinho has shaken off his poor mid-season form, but he failed to deliver in key moments that would have allowed Berlin to keep fifth-place. Dortmund's chances sank dramatically as Bert van Marwijk's side eighth-place, six points behind back of Leverkusen who moved ahead of Berlin into fifth.

Fußball Bundesliga, 30. Spieltag, VfL Wolfsburg - Werder Bremen

Wolfsburg fought bravely to go away with one point

Frankfurt and Mainz, two clubs feeling the heat of the relegation fight, also played to a scoreless draw. Frankfurt, still celebrating their advancement to the German Cup finals last Tuesday, dictated most of this match against a defensively-oriented Mainz, but couldn't get the all-important gamewinner.

Simon Rolfes notched his first-ever two-goal game to catapult the Rhineland team past Mönchengladbach 2-1 and into fifth-place in the Bundesliga. Coach Michael Skibbe's squad went up in the 11th minute when Rolfes followed up on a Dimitar Berbatov shot that hit the Gladbach post. Oliver Neuville tied up the game early in the second-half before Rolfes' gamewinner six minutes from time.

Stuttgart's comeback

VfB Stuttgart kept alive their hopes of a UEFA Cup spot with a thrilling 3-3 comeback draw against ten-man Hannover on Sunday. Danish international forward Jon Dahl Tomasson, an 8 million euro signing from AC Milan in the summer, scored eight minutes from time to steal a point for the visitors. Stuttgart, who were tussling with English giants Chelsea in the Champions League two seasons ago, are now four points behind Bayer Leverkusen who occupy fifth and the final UEFA Cup berth.

Hannover went two goals up following strikes from Hanno Balitsch and Jiri Stajner but then had Altin Lala sent off after 38 minutes for two bookable offences. German international defender Per Mertesacker looked to have wrapped up the game with a 67th minute strike to make it 3-1 to Hannover, but Thomas Hitzlsperger (77) and Tomasson scored late on to clinch a point for Stuttgart.

Incredibly it was Stuttgart's 16th draw of the season.

In Sunday's other game Kaiserslautern, champions in 1998, tasted a 3-2 defeat against FC Nuremberg and stay in the relegation zone. Kaiserslautern's Turkish international Halil Altintop scored twice, in the 20th and 48th munites, to notch his 17th and 18th goals of the season -- he is now just two behind the league's top-scorer Miroslav Klose -- but it was not enough. Slovakian international Robert Vittek landed the sucker punch with his second goal of the game three minutes from time.

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