Bayern Munich made hard work of Saturday's 1-1 draw with Hanover 96 with Michael Ballack's last minute header saving them from defeat. Hamburg chalked a comfortable win over Frankfurt Sunday to move into second.
Two headers decided everything in the 1-1 Hanover-Bayern draw
The lead may still be eight points but Bayern Munich will be sitting a little less comfortably at the top of the Bundesliga after scraping a last minute 1-1 draw away to Hanover 96 and then watching Hamburg SV reclaim second spot with a 2-1 away win to Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.
Unlike Bayern who looked vulnerable until Michael Ballack’s header saved the day, Hamburg recovered from defeats in their previous two away games to comfortably beat Frankfurt, despite the score line suggesting otherwise.
Hamburg took a while to get in their stride in a cautious first half but still took the lead through Piotr Trochowski on 20 minutes who manufactured the opening out of nothing, racing past the last defender to poke a high, hopeful cross from Sergej Barbarez into the net.
Frankfurt hit back three minutes after the break, when Alex Meier's header hit HSV's Daniel Van Buyten and deflected past the keeper. But when Van Buyten scored at the right end, Hamburg's first away win of 2006 never looked in danger.
Four minutes after he gifted the home side with the equalizer, the Dutchman made amends in style by stroking in after being teed up by Trochowski's cut-back.
"We didn't give them a chance after they'd got their equalizer," purred coach Thomas Doll after his side leapfrogged Werder Bremen into second slot. "We were very disciplined."
Stuttgart get coach's first win under their belts
In Sunday's other game, VfB Stuttgart beat Mainz 2-1 at home to give coach Armin Veh his first victory since he replaced Giovanni Trapattoni on Feb. 10.
Stuttgart did just enough for their first win in three games following defeats in the league and UEFA Cup with Danijel Ljuboja opening the scoring in the seventh minute after he raced on to an Andreas Hinkel pass to put Stuttgart ahead.
Antonio da Silva scored a screamer from outside the box to equalize in the 25th minute but Stuttgart sealed the points after Jon Dahl Tomasson’s clever pass teed up Christian Tiffert for the winner midway through the second half.
Munich had to wait until the 89th minute to save the game against Hanover 96 with Michael Ballack's header staving off defeat.
A messy header by Thomas Brdaric had looked to have given the victory to an in-form Hanover, but not for the first time this season Ballack led his team by example, jumping just higher than his markers to head Willy Sagnol's cross past Hanover keeper Robert Enke.
Neururer said he was slightly disappointed but couldn't be upset at his team's play
"I have seldom been disappointed with a tie against Bayern Munich, but today I am a little bit," Hanover coach Peter Neururer (photo) said. "Naturally, it's annoying when you think you have the game wrapped up in the 89th minute and then give up a late equalizer."
The 1-1 scoreline was not the ideal preparation for Bayern ahead of the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League game against AC Milan in Bavaria on Tuesday. That match may prove especially difficult without goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who left the game with a thigh injury. His status for Tuesday's game is uncertain.
Bayern receive only light two-point "punishment"
Before the match Neururer said his side wanted to "punish Bayern" because Munich did not show any respect for the Bundesliga after referring to the Hanover match as a distraction before the European duel.
The punishment didn't prove too painful. Werder Bremen re-discovered their form to win 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund thanks to an Ivan Klasnic strike, and cut Bayern's lead at the top to nine points.
Ivan Klasnic scored Bremen's only goal
Kaiserslautern improve, Cologne suffer
At the other end of the table, Kaiserslautern earned themselves a bit of hope at leaving the relegation zone with a 2-0 win against Arminia Bielefeld with Ivory Coast striker Boubacar Sanogo scoring both goals. They are still third from bottom but their fortunes are looking up.
Cologne, on the other hand, may want to consider heading to their famous cathedral, lighting a candle and saying a prayer to stay in the German top flight after their 0-2 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach whose goals came from veteran German Oliver Neuville and a Christian Lell own goal. With just 15 points from 22 games to their name, once mighty Cologne are in deep trouble.
"I'm very glad we won and got the first win," Gladbach coach Horst Köppel said. "Cologne certainly didn't play like a last-placed team."
Schalke solid in Berlin
Schalke were able to solidify their chances at a UEFA Cup spot next season with a 2-1 win over Hertha BSC that pushed Berlin down to sixth place white the Royal Blues remained fourth.
German international Gerald Asamoah opened the scoring on six minutes, but Alexander Madlung pulled Hertha level just after the half-hour mark. Bosnian international Zlatan Bajramovic scored the winner deep into first-half stoppage time.
"We were strong defensively, brought the game forward and deserved to win," Schalke coach Mirko Slomka. "We have the luck that Hertha is missing right now."
Nuremberg moved up one spot in the rankings to 14th, but still remain only one point out of the relegation zone after taking three points from VfL Wolfsburg on a lone goal from Ivan Saenko in the 16th minute.
Leverkusen find lost form
After being stuck at the losing end of last week's 4-7 goal-fest against Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen beat MSV Duisburg 3-2 and can once again hope for a chance at European competition after a goal each from Paul Freier and Tranquillo Barnetta before 10 minutes were up. Klemen Lavric equalized for the guests but Duisburg fell behind again Dimitar Berbatow put in his ninth goal of the season.
Bayer coach Michael Skibbe said his team played well for long stretches of the match and was ready to "start looking to move up the table.