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Challengers Stumble in Bundesliga Title Race

In what could well have been labeled the "championship weekend," the 13th week of the current Bundesliga campaign certainly sorted the men from the boys.

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Wolfsburg's 3-0 win saw their lead at the top stretch to three points

With the top five teams separated by just three points at the start of play, victories in Week Thirteen would prove extremely valuable as the title challengers sought to keep up the momentum with the psychological spoils up for grabs as the winter break approaches.

Wins for leaders Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich, who were fourth before the action this weekend, defeats for Schalke 04 and Stuttgart, second and third respectively, and a draw for the champions Werder Bremen in fifth meant that the top two teams on Sunday evening had earned themselves some breathing space.

Bayern moved up to second, one point adrift of Wolfsburg, thanks to rising Peruvian star Paulo Guerrero who proved to be the Bavarians' knight in shining armor, scoring twice in five minutes to help his team to a 3-1 win at VfL Bochum on Sunday.

Guerrero, 20, came on for compatriot Claudio Pizarro at half-time and had a huge impact equalizing in the 76th minute and then scoring again on 81 minutes. An own goal from Christoph Preuss sixty seconds later meant Bochum, who had led through Vratislav Lokvenc's 66th minute opener, had thrown the match away conceding three goals in six hectic minutes.

Bundesligaboxen: 13. Spieltag Bayern München gegen VfL Bochum 1:3

Despite the victory Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness was angry about criticism of how Munich played. "When we have to justify a 3-1 win away from home it is time to give up," explained Hoeness. "I want people to accept our performances for what they are - they are good."

Wolves consolidate lead at the top

Surprise package Wolfsburg remain on top of the Bundesliga following a comfortable 3-0 home win over VfB Stuttgart on Sunday. The three points saw Wolfsburg, only promoted to the Bundesliga in 1997, stay at the summit as second-placed Schalke 04 slipped to a 3-1 reverse against Hertha Berlin.

"Tactically that was our best performance of the season," said a delighted Wolves boss Erik Gerets. "We would not be able to beat a team such as Stuttgart without such tactical nous."

Bundesligaboxen: 13. Spieltag VfL Wolfsburg gegen VfB Stuttgart 3:0

Since Wolfsburg reached the Bundesliga summit on September 18, everyone has been asking how long it would be before the unfashionable outfit slipped down the ladder. Wolves were demolished 5-1 by Stuttgart at home last season but took revenge with a 3-0 win. Goals from Thomas Brdaric (42) and Martin Petrov (69, 76) completed a miserable week for Stuttgart who crashed out of the German Cup to Bayern on Wednesday.

Royal Blues slip up in shock defeat

Schalke 04 were looking to keep the pressure up on the Wolves from their second place berth before Saturday's clash with Hertha Berlin. Under Ralf Rangnick, Schalke had won six league matches in a row but it was unlucky seven as Hertha triumphed 3-1 at the Arena Auf Schalke - their first victory in Gelsenkirchen since 1970.

A capacity 61,500 crowd at the Arena Auf Schalke watched Schalke's record run of six successive wins come to an end. German international Gerald Asamoah cancelled out Brazilian Marcelinho's opener for Berlin but Schalke then came undone on the counter attack. Angolan Nando Rafael (71) and Niko Kovac (83) landed the sucker punches for Berlin.

German champions Werder Bremen missed the chance to close in on the pretenders to their crown with a 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen. Werder are now six points adrift of Wolves back in sixth place.

Champs blow chance to take advantage

Bundesligaboxen: 13. Spieltag Werder Bremen gegen Bayer Leverkusen 2:2

Bremen failed to take advantage of the Schalke slip to move back into contention despite being in a commanding position at the Weserstadion. "I cannot fathom how we gave away the initiative in the space of 10 minutes," said Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf. "We were too slow for both their goals and were punished."

Bayer turned the game on its head in the second half with Ukraine international Andrei Voronin equalizing in the 51st minute and 120 seconds later Leverkusen were in front.

Bremen's Paraguayan supersub Nelson Haedo Valdez salvaged a point with his 72nd minute leveler but Werder have some work to do to force their way back into the title race.

Dortmund's woes increase

Elsewhere Borussia Dortmund, with an injury list totaling 14 players, fell to a 1-0 defeat at Kaiserslautern. Ferydoon Zandi scored from the spot after 71 minutes to pull Dortmund back into the relegation battle. "The 17-year-old Marc Kruska was our best player. That says it all," fumed Dortmund chief Bert van Marwijk.

Hansa Rostock remain bottom of the league and must now search for a new coach after a 6-0 home thrashing by SV Hamburg on Sunday. Juri Schlunz resigned as manager immediately after the match.

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