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Pretenders Leverkusen stumble to first season defeat

Bayern Munich opened the door to the top when they drew to Freiburg earlier this week, but none of the pretenders to the crown could take advantage. Most surprising was how meekly Leverkusen lost to Schalke.

There was a flurry of activity surrounding Schalke in the run-up to their match against Leverkusen. During the week, the Royal Blues barely qualified for the Champions League and then worked late deals to secure the services of Dennis Aogo and Kevin-Prince Boateng, aka “the man who ended Michael Ballack’s international career.”

All was calm at Leverkusen, and perhaps for that reason they made the cooler impression in the early phases of the match.

But Schalke drew first blood on the half-hour mark. A free kick by Jefferson Farfan just grazed Marco Höger’s head and squirmed under Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno. The goal seemed to disconcert the visitors, who failed to generate any serious threat for an equalizer.

Instead it was Jefferson Farfan drawing and then converting a penalty with around ten minutes left. Christian Clemens missed from point-blank range late to shield Leverkusen from complete embarrassment.

"I'm proud of the performance the team put in, both tactically and in terms of effort," said Schalke coach Jens Keller after the game. "I don't want to single out any individuals."

The 2-0 loss drops Leverkusen all the way to fourth in the table. Schalke, on the other hand, claim their first league victory this season.

Mainz get manhandled

Diego (L) shoots a penalty

Diego elicited a key penalty

Earlier on Saturday, this season's pleasant surprises Mainz and Hertha Berlin both had the chance to move to the top of the table. But both went to down to clear defeats.

There was a familiar sight in Hanover in minute 12 as Nicolai Müller put Mainz ahead. It was his fifth season goal – tops in the Bundesliga. Hanover's defense looked narcoticized.

But on the half-hour mark Mame Diouf equalized for Hanover heading in after a corner. A Mainz defender headed the ball back, but he was behind the goal line. And just six minutes later an unmarked Artur Sobiech put the hosts in front, also with a header.

Mainz pushed forward in the second half and had more of the ball, but to no avail. Ten minutes from time, Didier Ya Konan volleyed in a cross. And 120 clicks of the clock later, Edgar Prib rifled in his first goal for Hanover to make the final score 4-1.

That result ends Mainz’s perfect season record with a thud and takes Hanover all the way up to third in the table ahead of Leverkusen and Mainz thanks to goal difference.

Wolves defend their lair

Hamburg's coach Thorsten Fink

Hamburg's coach Thorsten Fink can sigh with relief

Hertha Berlin also missed the chance to grab the standings lead, falling afoul of Wolfsburg's strength at home. Hertha almost caught their hosts on the break a couple of times early, but the Wolves helped themselves to the lead in minute 42.

Ivica Olic got on the end of a long pass by defender Naldo. And just before the half-time whistle, playmaker Diego made the most of a stray Hertha leg in the box, hitting the turf with remarkable ease and converting the penalty.

Diego could have put the result beyond doubt just after the restart, but his header from four meters went wide. Wolfsburg didn't need the insurance. Their defence kept Hertha at bay, and the game ended 2-0 - although Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking was anything but euphoric.

"What eats at me is that we failed to score a third and fourth goal in the second half," Hecking said.

It was Berlin's first loss since last March, when they were in division 2. The result means that Hertha slump to sixth, while Wolfsburg move up to eighth in the standings.

Braunschweig no match for Hamburg

Elsewhere, disappointing Hamburg desperately needed a win at home against newly promoted and pointless Braunschweig, and they got it. Rafael Van der Vaart put Hamburg in front in minute 7 after a botched Braunschweig pass. And just two minutes later, Rene Adler hoofed the ball upfield. Maximilian Beister fed Jacques Zoua who slotted home.

Late in second half Hakan Calhanoglu extended Hamburg's lead, pouncing on a mistake by Braunschweig keeper Daniel Davari. And Calhanoglu pounded home a free kick shortly thereafter to complete a 4-0 thrashing.

Mönchengladbach versus Bremen was a dull affair for more than half an hour. In minute 36, though, a barely on-side Juan Arango broke the ice with a textbook goal, nutmegging Bremen keeper Sebastian Mielitz. After the restart Raffael then doubled Gladbach's lead, exploiting a fluffed Mielitz clearance.

Bremen were moribund, but Gladbach revived them 20 minutes from time. Foals defender Havard Nordtveit combined with a teammate to produce an own goal. But Bremen's hopes only lasted five minutes. Max Kruse finished off a move by Raffael. Patrick Herrmann struck late to complete a 4-1 thrashing.

Nuremberg versus Augsburg featured two local rivals and was a hard-nosed affair with few clear goal chances. However, with a quarter of an hour to go, Javier Pinola got sent off after a second yellow. Shortly thereafter Kevin Vogt put back a rebound to seal the 1-0 win. It was Augsburg's first ever first-division victory in Nuremberg.

Bayern and Freiburg played to a 1-1 draw in their round 4 match on Tuesday. The game was moved forward because of the UEFA Super Cup on Friday, which Bayern won.

On Sunday, Stuttgart host Hoffenheim. And Dortmund have the chance to claim top spot in the table away in Frankfurt.

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