Dortmund responded to Schalke's Friday-night win in style, as the race for the Bundesliga's second spot heats up. The BVB overturned a 2-0 deficit against Stuttgart to win 3-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Marco Reus.
Dortmund, aiming to regain second place after their arch-rivals Schalke overtook them on Friday night with a 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin, began lethargically, as is often their wont ahead of a Champions League fixture. But this time their opponents, a relegation-threatened Stuttgart, took full advantage. Huub Stevens' men were 2-0 up inside 20 minutes, as Christian Gentner and Martin Harnik took advantage of a sluggish defense.
But Dortmund soon regained their composure and one of their trademark swift attacks cut the lead by half - Marco Reus running onto a through-ball and neatly slotting the ball past Sven Ulreich on the half-hour mark. BVB should even have equalized through Henrikh Mkhitaryan a few minutes later and were exerting all the pressure as the half wore on.
They finally restored equilibrium midway through the second half with a penalty from Reus after Georg Niedermeier was sent off for bringing down Robert Lewandowski. Reus completed his hat-trick in the 82nd minute with a deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area.
After the game, Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp admitted that his side had not played well. "We meant to play football and go into the challenges intensively," he told the SID news agency. "The football thing didn't work so well, and we seem to have misunderstood the thing with the challenges. We obviously needed to go behind. In the second half it was great - we deserved to win."
Bayern - just a draw for once
The newly-crowned champions Bayern Munich left their stars on the bench to face Hoffenheim ahead of their mid-week Champions League clash against Manchester United. The visitors duly took advantage of the Bavarians' relative weakness and took the lead through Anthony Modeste - sent clear against Tom Starke in the 23rd minute. The reserve goalkeeper did well to keep out Modeste's first effort, but could not stop the Frenchman following up and guiding the ball in.
The lead didn't last long, however, as Claudio Pizarro used one of his rare starts to equalize in the 31st minute. The free-scoring Bavarians swiftly took the lead three minutes later - through Xherdan Shaqiri - before Pizarro poached his second five minutes from half-time.
Hoffenheim's early exuberance had been ruthlessly reined in - though the visitors had the last word of a highly entertaining first half when Sejad Salihovic produced an elegant and precise free-kick to reduce the deficit to 3-2. Refusing to be cowed by their all-conquering opponents, Hoffenheim kept the pressure on in the second half and got their reward in the 78th minute with a fantastic strike from Roberto Firmino. Bayern couldn't find a winner, and their incredible run of 19 Bundesliga wins came to an end - under the haunted gaze of their former president and convicted tax fraudster Uli Hoeness, watching from the stands.
Bayern will also have to do without Thiago Alcantara for a while, after he tore a knee ligament in the first half. The Spanish central midfielder is expected to be out for a month.
Late thunder-strike lifts Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg, chasing a lucrative Champions League spot, had an excellent chance to rein in Leverkusen three points ahead of them as they hosted Frankfurt. But it was the visitors who looked hungrier than the Wolves in the first half, and took the lead in the 11th minute through Stefan Aigner, who ran on to Tranquillo Barnetta's headed lay-off, outstripped Naldo and blasted the ball past Max Grün.
With Leverkusen only drawing at home to Braunschweig, Wolfsburg scented blood, and finally made the breakthrough thanks to Ivica Olic, who stretched onto a cross in the 68th minute and turned the ball in to equalize.
Frankfurt had every reason to feel aggrieved, having had a goal harshly disallowed just minutes before, but they couldn't argue with the majesty of Wolfsburg's winning strike. Naldo picked the ball up in space near the half-way line, dribbled the ball forward just outside the center-circle, and then unleashed a thundering 34-meter effort that rippled the net in the far corner. The win put the Wolves just a point behind Leverkusen in the coveted fourth Champions League spot.
Leverkusen draw at home to Braunschweig
Braunschweig, bottom of the league despite an awesome win over Mainz in midweek, are aiming to pull off the unlikeliest of rescue operations. They were facing fourth-placed Leverkusen on Saturday, and took the lead early in the second half thanks to a remarkable goal from Ken Reichel, who hammered the ball under the bar from a tight angle on the volley. But Leverkusen kept their nerve and equalized a few minutes later after their Stefan Kiessling won a penalty by heading the ball against the hand of Marcel Correia. The star-striker converted the spot-kick himself.
Elsewhere, 7th-placed Mainz were slugging it out in a duel with Augsburg, only one spot and two points below them. But Mainz made the gap look bigger, taking a comfortable 3-0 win against the Bavarian side, the goals coming from Niko Bungert, Marwin Hitz, and, late in the second half, an accomplished strike from Johannes Geis. The win put Mainz in a Europa League place.
Freiburg get vital win
Saturday's evening game was an aggressive relegation nail-biter, as Freiburg overcame Nuremberg 3-2, coming from behind twice. The two teams began the day on 26 points, two ahead of Hamburg in the drop-zone. Nuremberg started more aggressively and took the lead in the seventh minute through a rare goal from defender Emanuel Pogatetz, who nodded in a Hiroshi Kiyotake cross after a short corner.
The hosts took hold of the game after the early setback and were extremely unlucky not to equalize when Admir Mehmedi dinked a delicate lob over the Nuremberg keeper, only for the ball to drop onto the post. They finally redressed the balance in the 23rd minute, when Pavel Krmas glanced in a brilliant header from a corner.
A corner caused the third goal of the game too - though indirectly. As players jostled frantically for position in the Freiburg penalty area, Krmas appeared to wrestle Pogatetz to the ground as the ball came sailing in. Josip Drmic struck the resulting penalty into the top corner with insouciance.
Any lingering sense of injustice was wiped out early in the second half, though, when Pogatetz brought down Felix Klaus. Mehmedi coolly converted the spot-kick and then in the 65th minute, Klaus scored Freiburg's third with a sweet top-corner strike from the edge of the area after a brilliant run from Christian Günter opened the left side of the pitch. The win puts some daylight between Freiburg and the thick of the relegation scrap - Nuremberg, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Braunschweig are still in deep trouble.