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Sports

Leverkusen Humble Hoffenheim as Dream Turns Sour

TSG Hoffenheim had to swallow their first home defeat of the season, 4-1 against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday night, and are now in danger of losing the Bundesliga lead and their magic.

Hoffenheim's Luiz Gustavo, right, challenges for the ball with Leverkusen's Gonzalo Castro

Hoffenheim's home crowd were treated to a display of great finishing - by the visitors

Germany striker Patrick Helmes scored twice while Simon Rolfes and Gonzalo Castro got the other goals for Leverkusen, who also beat Hoffenheim 5-2 in the teams' first season meeting.

Both Helmes goals were executed with ruthless finishing as Hoffenheim were humbled at home for the first time at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena which opened in January.

Leverkusen took the lead after Hoffenheim's defense allowed Bayer's Brazilian Renato Augusto to slide a cross into Helmes who showed clinical finishing and buried his shot in the back of the net after three minutes.

Hoffenheim were 2-0 down just eight minutes later when a goal-mouth scramble saw Bayer captain Simon Rolfes stab his shot home.

But the home side fought back thanks to a helping hand from Bayer's Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler.

Adler made a hash of his tackle on Senegal striker Demba Ba, earning himself a yellow card and conceded a penalty simultaneously with half an hour gone. Midfielder Sejad Salihovic made no mistake with the spot kick.

Helmes on fire

Fußball Bundesliga 1899 Hoffenheim gegen Bayer Leverkusen

Patrick Helmes punished Hoffenheim twice

But Hoffenheim fell further behind just before the half-time whistle when Helmes again received a crisp pass in front of goal and made no mistake in beating former Germany goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand to make it 3-1 at the break.

Leverkusen made sure of the three points when ex-Germany defender Gonzalo Castro lobbed his header over Hildebrand on 48 minutes.

"We knew that we had to put our opponents on the back foot," said Bayer coach Bruno Labbadia. "We wanted to be the first team to beat Hoffenheim here and I am happy for the team that we achieved that. It was important for us to know we can beat any team in the league.

"I told my team not to listen to the crisis talk. It was not easy for the young team to play like this today. I am very happy with the way we played," Labbadia added.

The loss to Bayer ended Hoffenheim's league-best unbeaten home run ended after eight wins and two draws on a snowy night.

"We made too many mistakes. That is not typical for our game," said Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick. „We conceded two goals in the first ten minutes. There were a few key passages of play for us, above all the goals just before and after half-time. We must now show a strong reaction in Stuttgart."

Difficult spell set to continue for Hoffenheim

The players of German first division Bundesliga soccer team 1899 Hoffenheim

It's been fun: Hoffenheim have led the league since November but for how much longer?

Hoffenheim's magic could be over as they have won just once in their last five games and now have difficult away dates at rising VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund. The league leaders are now in danger of losing their place at the top for the first time since mid-November to Bayern Munich or Hertha Berlin on Saturday. They lead by just a point from Bayern.

Leverkusen rejoined the title race on 36 points with the big win a week after crashing 4-2 at home against Stuttgart. SV Hamburg also have 36 ahead of their Sunday home game with Arminia Bielefeld.

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