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Bundesliga: Leverkusen consolidate second place

After a blistering opening at Schalke on Friday night, the Bundesliga settled down into its Saturday routine in chilly conditions up and down the country. Leverkusen held on to second place by beating Frankfurt.

The most eye-catching fixture on Saturday pitted second-placed Leverkusen against fourth-placed Frankfurt. One of the biggest questions of the second half of the season promises to be whether Leverkusen can keep their momentum and hold off Dortmund to maintain second place.

The Rhineland team started the day three points ahead of both the reigning champions and their opponents - the newly promoted over-achievers Frankfurt, who had defied the odds to win nine games before the winter break.

Fans of Frankfurt burn flares and throw firework during the Bundesliga match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt at BayArena on January 19, 2013 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Fireworks interrupted play in Leverkusen

On today's evidence against a lackluster Frankfurt, Leverkusen looked more than capable of holding them off, eventually securing a 3-1 win.

The match was quiet for the first 15 minutes - the only drama came when Frankfurt's visiting fans began showering the pitch with fireworks in the 16th minute. Referee Wolfgang Stark immediately stopped play, and led the players off the pitch.

When play resumed around seven minutes later, the game sparked to life - Stefan Kiessling and Andre Schürrle almost combining to score the opener for Leverkusen. Frankfurt's defense looked rattled, and the home side's breakthrough came on the half-hour, when a Gonzalo Castro shot stung the goalkeeper's palms. The resulting corner was not cleared and Sebastian Boenisch slammed in through a crowd of players.

Leverkusen needed just two more minutes to double their lead, when a two-man break left the Frankfurters stranded. Castro and Kiessling cleverly managed to stay just onside when the ball was played through from their own half, and it was left to Kiessling to tap the ball home.

The hosts then put then put the game to bed in the 58th minute, when Frankfurt thoughtlessly lost the ball in midfield to the most dangerous combo on the pitch - Schürrle and Kiessling. The two combined out to the left of the penalty area, where Kiessling's cutback was slammed into the roof of the net by Schürrle.

Alexander Meier's 78th minute reply for Frankfurt - a lovely precision finish after Stefan Aigner's cross found him lurking at the edge of the area - did not make the result any less disappointing for the visitors.

Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Mandzukic's double was more than enough for Bayern

Bayern ease past Fürth

Bayern Munich, meanwhile, more or less champions-elect with their nine-point lead (and their frankly preposterous goal difference of +39) took on their lowly fellow Bavarians Greuther Fürth, and cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory.

The bottom side began the game virtually hunched in a pack round their penalty area, while Bayern's midfielders prodded the defense from both sides like a cook poking a piece of meat to see when it's done. The roasting only lasted 26 minutes, before a simple cross in from the right found Mario Mandzukic.

The Croatian striker's volley was slammed towards the near post, where Fürth keeper Wolfgang Hesl patted weakly at the ball and allowed it to bounce into the net, undoing the good work his defense had managed until then.

But Hesl could not be blamed for the Croat's second, which came from a corner in the 61st minute. Mandzukic once again beat his man at the near post and headed it low. Bayern then had little trouble guiding the win home.

Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg is challenged byZdravko Kuzmanovic of Stuttgart during the Bundesliga match between VfL Wolfsburg and VfB Stuttgart at Volkswagen Arena on January 19, 2013 in Wolfsburg, Germany. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images

Wolfsburg got a very handy win over Stuttgart

Wolves hunt down Stuttgart

Wolfsburg, hosting Stuttgart, might have been hovering just above the relegation spots in the table, but they were actually closer to their ninth-placed opponents than the dreaded 16th place as the game began. And they ended up with a very good 2-0 victory, promptly bumping them up two places to 13th.

After a dire first half, played in light snowfall, the hosts finally broke through in the 51st minute, when the Wolves' star midfielder Diego was given the ball on the halfway line. He began a languorous dribble forward untroubled by Stuttgart challenges before deciding to try a shot from 25 meters. The idea caught everyone by surprise, not least goalkeeper Sven Ulreich who could only divert the ball onto the inside of his right post, from where it bounced in.

Diego was also instrumental in the Wolves second in the 67th minute. Having won a free-kick right on the edge of the visitors' penalty area on the left, the Brazilian delivered a perfect dead ball for Alexander Madlung to nod in from close range.

Hoffenheim get clean sheet

Hoffenheim were in desperate need of points, with all of seven points separating them from 15th place and safety before plac began. And they got one against Mönchengladbach with a 0-0 draw, their tactic of pressing the Foals high up the pitch paying off.

Hoffenheim fans would have been particularly happy to see their notoriously fragile defense get through the game unbreached. Up front, their midfielder Tobias Weis almost won a penalty in the 15th minute, only for a sliding tackle from Alvaro Dominguez to scratch the ball into the corner.

Mainz' Zdenek Pospech (R) and Freiburg's Daniel Caligiuri vie for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match 1.FSV Mainz 05 vs. SC Freiburg, in Mainz, southwestern Germany, on January 19, 2012. AFP PHOTO: DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images

Mainz couldn't find a way past Freiburg at home

Gladbach's extra talent showed throughout the game, but while they dominated possession, they remained toothless in front of goal and had to make do with a point.

Mainz can't find winner

Mainz's 0-0 against Freiburg was as evenly matched as could be expected from two sides equal on 26 points going into the game. But while the match was played at a frenetic tempo for the first hour or so, neither side could find the killer move, and it ended with frustration for both sides.

Mainz made most of the running, particularly in the second half, but were hamstrung when forward Shawn Parker was awarded a second yellow card in the last few minutes. It was certainly a harsh decision - he looked to have pulled out of his challenge on the Freiburg goalkeeper before contact was made - but it left the home side with even less chance of finding a winner.

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