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Sports

Bayern on Track to Take Home Title

Sunday's Bundesliga games didn't change anything about the leadership struggle between Bayern and Schalke: Bayern seems set to win the season after Stuttgart defeated Schalke on Saturday.

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Kaiserslautern's Carsten Jancker celebrates his goal against Bielefeld

On Sunday, Nuremberg beat Hansa Rostock 3-0 with the help of Slovakia striker Marek Mintal, who scored his 22nd Bundesliga season goal in the 69th minute. Ten minutes earlier, Maik Wagefeld secured the lead for Nuremberg with a long-range strike. He also scored the third goal two minutes from time.

While Nuremberg is now in relative safety from being relegated to Germany's second-tier league, Rostock still has to fear about its Bundesliga future. Only six games are left to play in the season and only Freiburg ranks even lower than Rostock, with Bochum a third candidate for transfer to the second-level Bundesliga.

Also on Sunday, Kaiserslautern under its new coach, Hans-Werner Moser, beat Arminia Bielefeld 2-0.

Neither game did anything to change things at the top, where Bayern Munich looks like the likely season winner after Saturday's 3-0 victory over the second contender, Schalke. The pressure from the Stuttgart fans had been growing. Kevin Kuranyi last scored for VfB on February 2. Since then, the striker disappeared from the scene. But that ended on Saturday and in grand fashion when Kuranyi scored a hat trick and led Stuttgart to victory.

The first goal, 569 minutes since his last strike, came in the 15th minute and that thanks to former teammate Marcelo Bordon. The solidly-built and usually dependable central defender transferred to Schalke after last season but he let a cross go through his legs and Kuranyi could finally end his scoring drought.

"I made a mistake, everyone made mistakes," said Bordon on television broadcaster Premiere after the match. "(The loss) was our own fault."

Fußball Bundesliga Saison 2005 VfB Stuttgart - Schalke 04

VfB Stuttgart's players reacting after 3-0 pasting of Schalke

Schalke never got on track and their few first-half opportunities came on long passes up the middle. Gerald Asamoah was stopped by keeper Timo Hildebrand in the 19th minute. Ailton had the best chance in the 21st minute. He put on the afterburners from 40 meters out, watched two Stuttgart defenders crash into each other, and evaded Hildebrand. Just before his shot reached the net from the left side, Alexander Hleb cleared it off the line.

After that, Schalke seemed at a loss over how to crack the Stuttgart defense that never truly faltered in the match.

Poor second-half start spells end for Schalke

Referee Wolfgang Stark had just blown the whistle to start the second-half but Schalke seemed not to hear it. Just two minutes after the start, VfB's Hleb won a ball at midfield and sped down the left wing.

Fußball Bundesliga Saison 2005 VfB Stuttgart - Schalke 04

Stuttgart's Christian Tiffert, right, stops Schalke's Levan Kobiashvili. Tiffert assisted on two of Kevin Kuranyi's goals

His cross went all the way across the field to Christian Tiffert. He tapped it back to Andreas Hinkel who had ample time to send the ball to an uncovered Kevin Kuranyi who headed the ball into the net.

At that point, Stuttgart seemed satisfied with the lead and retreated into their end. Schalke attempted to put something together but had to watch Hleb start another brilliant counterattack in the 63rd minute. He found Tiffert on the right side who in turn saw Kevin Kuranyi again uncovered in the middle. He coolly moved into the penalty box and sunk the leather into the net against Schalke keeper Frank Rost who was helpless in stopping the ball.

Fußball Bundesliga Saison 2005 VfB Stuttgart - Schalke 04 Kevin Kuranyi

Kevin Kuranyi had gone 569 minutes without celebrating a goal -- that changed in spades today

Only minutes afterwards, Schalke's midfielder Lincoln was sent off the pitch for a second bookable offense and the game took on a scrimmage-like quality for the final 20 minutes.

Schalke's strikers Ailton, Mike Hanke and Gerald Asamoah, proved harmless most of the match. "We never gave Schalke a chance," Kuranyi told television channel Premiere.

With the loss, Schalke are now three points behind league-leaders Bayern Munich. Stuttgart remain five points back of their Bavarian rivals but only two behind the Royal Blues, making the fight for second-place anybody's.

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