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Bayern, Leverkusen keep up pressure on Dortmund

Wins by Bayern and Leverkusen narrowed the gap at the top of the Bundesliga after Dortmund gave up a last-minute goal. Cologne beat Mainz to leave the relegation zone, and Mönchengladbach fired their coach on Sunday.

Cologne and Mainz players fight for the ball

Cologne's win moved them out of the relegation zone

Two goals each from Lukas Podolski and Milivoje Novakovic gave Cologne a 4-2 win over fourth-placed Mainz in Sunday's first Bundesliga match. Cologne's fourth successive home win puts the team two points out of the relegation zone.

Podolski scored in the third and 55th minutes while Novakovic struck in the 43rd and 60th minutes as Cologne climbed to 13th in the table. The defeat leaves Mainz two points behind third-placed Bayern Munich and 15 adrift of leaders Borussia Dortmund.

Dortmund appeared set to claim three points in Kaiserslautern on Saturday after Sven Bender scored in the 81st minute. But the hosts were able to hand the league leaders their second draw in two matches when Jan Moravek scored a last minute equalizer.

"I have to say we probably didn't deserve more than a point today," said Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp. "It would have been a fortunate win. We were the better team but we didn't create many chances and in the end it was not enough."

Meanwhile, Bayern fans in Munich's Allianz Arena were treated Saturday to Dutch player Arjen Robben and Frenchman Franck Ribery playing together for the first time this season, with both men in stunning form.

Bayern players hugging

Bayern advanced to third thanks to goals from Gomez, Müller and Robben

The Bavarians raced into a two-goal lead against visiting Hoffenheim through Bundesliga top scorer Mario Gomez, who tallied his 17th goal of the season, and Thomas Müller before Robben bagged his double after the break.

"It was one of our best games of the season," said Bayern coach Louis van Gaal. "We concentrated for all 90 minutes - it's been a long time since that's happened. Robben and Ribery gave us a lot of creativity up front."

Second-placed Leverkusen move to 42 points, and Bayern advance to third on 39, while leaders Borussia Dortmund still have a 10-point lead.

Simon Rolfes and Stefan Reinartz cheer at Leverkusen's goal

Leverkusen moved to 42 points, gaining on Dortmund

First-half goals from Simon Rolfes and Renato Augusto before a late Hanno Balitsch effort earned Leverkusen a 3-0 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt. Leverkusen were able to book three points despite having Michael Ballack warming the bench.

"The first half was our best of the season," said Bayer Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes. "It was first-class football."

Tough day for struggling teams

At the bottom of the Bundesliga table, Borussia Mönchengladbach marched on towards relegation despite enjoying an early lead through Igor de Camargo at St. Pauli. But the Hamburg club bounced back with goals from Max Kruse, Gerald Asamoah and Matthias Lehmann for a 3-1 win.

The loss proved to be the last straw for coach Michael Frontzeck: Gladbach sent him packing on Sunday.

"Following the defeats against our direct relegation rivals VfB Stuttgart and St Pauli, we have to rethink our situation," sporting director Max Eberl said in a statement. "It was a difficult decision for us."

Stuttgart slumped to a 4-1 home defeat to Nuremberg, with Timmy Simons, Julian Schieber, Timothy Chandler and Mehmet Ekici sharing the goals.

St. Pauli players celebrate a goal

St. Pauli beat guests Mönchengladbach 3-1

The results leave Mönchengladbach on 16 points and Stuttgart on 19.

In other league action, Jefferson Farfan struck just after the break to give mid-table Schalke a 1-0 win over visiting Freiburg - taking some of the pressure off coach Felix Magath ahead of Schalke's Champions League Round of 16 match against Valencia in Spain.

"We played very well on the flanks but weren't exact enough with the final passes," said Schalke coach Felix Magath. "We needed the confidence that we hopefully got today. Things are looking up in the Bundesliga and that should continue on Tuesday in the Champions League."

But there was no respite for VfL Wolfsburg following the sacking of coach Steve McClaren in a 1-0 defeat at home to SV Hamburg courtesy of a first-half Mladen Petric penalty.

Wolfsburg remain a point off the relegation zone while Hamburg move up to seventh.

In Sunday's northern derby, Werder Bremen slumped closer to the relegation danger zone as they drew at home with Hanover 1-1. Didier Ya Konan opened the scoring for the visitors, despite Bremen looking like the stronger side. In the second half, Bremen had to rely on national player Per Mertesacker to score the equalizer and salvage a point. Bremen now sit in 14th place, while Hanover 96 remain in fourth.

Author: Sean Sinico (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: David Levitz

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