Bayern Munich underlined their determination to wrestle the German crown back from Werder Bremen with a 2-1 victory over the champions at the Weserstadion on Saturday.
Thanking the Bayern gods
Bayern had not won in Bremen since December 1999 but broke that hoodoo with German internationals Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger on target.
It was sweet revenge for Bayern who surrendered their German title to Bremen with a 3-1 loss at the Olympic Stadium last season.
Bayern are starting to click into gear, building on their 4-0
Champions League demolition of Ajax in midweek, and leapfrogged Bremen into third with the three points.
"We are up near the top of the table and back on the straight and narrow," said Bayern coach Felix Magath. "We were fortunate to win but I think overall we deserved the three points."
Surprise package VfL Wolfsburg still set the pace at the top
following a 2-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach. VfB Stuttgart are second one point behind Wolfsburg after
defeating Arminia Bielefeld 2-0 on Sunday.
Matthias Sammer has yet to taste defeat in his ten games as Stuttgart manager and his club are the only unbeaten team in the top-flight.
German international Sebastian Deisler was back in the Bayern starting eleven after being 'rested' for the past few matches and his corner was pivotal for the first goal. In the 20th minute Ballack rose highest to head home his fourth
goal of the season from the corner kick.
"Sometimes Makaay is so well marked it creates space for Ballack," explained Magath. "It is good to have two people who are so clinical in front of goal."
Croatian international Ivan Klasnic should have equalised for Bremen on the half hour mark but somehow headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
"In the first half we lacked the bite that we demonstrated
against Valencia," said Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf. "We could not convert our chances either."
Greece's Euro 2004 hero Angelos Charisteas, who scored the winner against Valencia in midweek, replaced Klasnic at the interval as coach Schaaf revamped his front line. Hosts Bremen asserted more pressure but it was in vain as
substitute Schweinsteiger staked a claim for a place in the first team curling home a 75th minute shot that caught goalkeeper Andreas Reinke off guard.
The second goal proved important as Miroslav Klose reduced the deficit with a header in the 81st minute, his fourth goal in his last two Bundesliga outings, but Bayern held on.
Bremen's miserable afternoon was capped off when it was
confirmed that German international Frank Fahrenhorst had broken his nose after Ballack's stray elbow forced him to leave the field after seven minutes.
Leverkusen ends drought
Bayer Leverkusen ended a five match winless streak with a 3-0 triumph over SV Hamburg at the BayArena.
"I am delighted with the three points," said Bayer manager Klaus Augenthaler. "The win is more significant than the victory against Bayern because the team were at a low ebb."
Augenthaler claimed Polish international Jacek Krzynowek should have a licence for his left foot and it was clear what the coach meant. In the 10th minute Krzynowek unleashed a 25 yard shot from his cannon left foot and the ball crashed into the roof of the net.
Brazilian international Juan (73) and Bulgarian international
Dimitar Berbatov (86) struck late on for Leverkusen spoiling the return of Hamburg chief Klaus Toppmoller, who guided Bayer to the Champions League final in 2002.
Borussia Dortmund fans still pine for their first home win in
the Bundesliga following a 2-2 draw with FC Nuremberg. Nuremberg scored twice in the 23rd and 25th minute to shock the 75,000 fans, but Czech international Jan Koller salvaged a point with a brace (28, 45) in a busy first half at the Westfalen Stadium.
In a league encounter on Sunday, manager Ralf Rangnick
enjoyed his first Bundesliga match in charge of Schalke 04 with a 3-2 triumph over local rivals VfL Bochum.
Schalke climbed an incredible nine places with the victory and are now in seventh after being in the relegation zone before the match. A first half goal blitz did the damage with German international Gerald Asamoah (10), Levan Kobiaschvili (13) and Brazilian Lincoln (44) all on target.
Bochum pulled two goals back in a see-saw second half but could not find an equaliser against ten-man Schalke who had goalscorer Lincoln dismissed in the 80th minute for wasting time.