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Sports

Leverkusen climb back into top four, Hoffenheim win

Leverkusen came into their home match against Hertha Berlin having won only one of their previous nine. But they pulled off a 2-1 win to reclaim fourth place and get the inside track on the Champions League.

The match was the first game in charge for Sascha Lewandowski, who was appointed to see out the season after Leverkusen fired Sami Hyypiä last week. His mission: to ensure Leverkusen qualify for the Champions League.

It didn't take long for the squad to put a smile on the new boss's face. Just 39 seconds, to be precise. Giulio Donati exploited some non-existent defending and crossed in for Stefan Kiessling, who merely had to stick his foot out.

The first 24 minutes were all Leverkusen. Hertha's Änis Ben Hatira then hit the crossbar with a deflected shot, only to see Leverkusen launch a counter-attack with the rebound. Seventeen-year-old Julian Brandt cheekily lobbed Hertha keeper Thomas Kraft to double the hosts' advantage.

It took a set piece for Berlin to get into the match. Tolga Cigerci booted a long free kick into the area, and Sandro Wagner scored with the back of his head.

The second half was unfortunately 45 minutes for amnesiacs. Leverkusen ran out 2-1 winners and move to fourth in the table, one point ahead of Wolfsburg.

"We're over the moon," Lewandowski told reporters after the match. "It's been a while since we won at home."

Hertha Berlin, meanwhile, have just nine points since the winter break - the worst post-Christmas tally of any team in the Bundesliga. Only a strong start to the season from Jos Luhukay's side has preserved the captial club's respectable tenth spot in the table.

Hoffenheim cool off Augsburg

Hoffenheim goalkeeper

Hoffenheim's keeper celebrated a clean sheet

In Sunday's late match, the man who ended Bayern Munich's record Bundesliga undefeated streak, Augsburg striker Sascha Mölders, almost put his side ahead in Hoffenheim in the first minute. But the bullish forward only hit the post. It was the last time Augsburg would enjoy an advantage.

Instead, hosts Hoffenheim went ahead 19 minutes in, when Sejad Salihovic curled in a free kick from way downtown. Keeper Marvin Hitz failed to tip the ball to safety, but to be fair, if he had, he might have knocked himself unconscious on the post. It was Salihovic's tenth career free-kick goal in the German top flight - the best among active Bundesliga players.

"I just hit them the way I hit them," Salihovic said after the match. "Luckily, they tend to go in."

Shortly before the break, Hitz flapped at a corner and missed. Ausgburg were able to clear the resulting shot off the line, but defender Jannick Vestergaard was able to head the ball home from close range.

In this match, too, there were no goals in the second half. The 2-0 win for Hoffenheim does nothing to change the table. Augsburg and Hoffenheim remain eighth and ninth respectively.

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