In soccer at the weekend, Schalke 04 edged closer to a potential first Bundesliga title in 47 years with a 1-0 home win over Bayern Munich, and Stuttgart edged back into the top three.
Schalke's Lincoln, left, and Ailton, celebrate victory
Schalke 04's Brazilian midfielder, Lincoln, sent a fantastic 69th minute free-kick past Oliver Kahn to down Bayern, who now find themselves three points adrift of Schalke with just nine games left to play.
"I think that was the most important goal of my career," said Lincoln, whose team have no European distractions.
Although Schalke undoubtedly have the tougher run-in -- with Werder Bremen, Bayer Leverkusen and VfB Stuttgart among the teams they still have to play -- the three-point cushion has given them the psychological edge.
Bayer Leverkusen v. Hertha Berlin
"It is great to win but the victory is worthless if we do not
beat Mainz next week," warned Schalke manager Ralf Rangnick. "We have to be top after 34 games -- that is all that counts."
The last time Schalke sat top of the 18-strong Bundesliga was in May 2001, and that date serves as a warning in itself. On the final day of the 2000/01 campaign Schalke fans and players celebrated what they thought was a glorious title win only for the incorrect scoreboard to reveal that Bayern had scored against Hamburg, making the Bavarians champions -- again.
Since 2001 the rivalry between Bayern and Schalke has escalated to that of derby rivals. With Bayern still involved in the energy-sapping Champions League Schalke's exit from the UEFA Cup could be a blessing in disguise.
Stuttgart once more in top three
Stuttgart moved back into the top three with a victory over Borussia Dortmund Sunday that came despite the sending-off of Fernando Meira at the start of the second half.
The visitors were leading 1-0 via a Silvio Meissner header when Meira received his marching orders for bringing down Ebi Smolarek in the box.
Jan Koller missed the ensuing penalty and Stuttgart clinched the points when Meissner had better luck from the spot, making it 2-0 after Dortmund's Christian Woerns had been sent off for a foul on Aliaksandr Hleb.
Hertha Berlin, Leverkusen draw at 3-3
Bayer Leverkusen v. Hertha Berlin
In its Saturday match against Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen looked to be cruising with a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes gone. However, a terrible collapse left the home side relieved with a 3-3 draw at the final whistle.
It was a make-or-break game for Klaus Auhenthaler's team. Just three days after they saw their last chance of a trophy disappear in the form of a crushing 3-1 home defeat in the champions League against Liverpool, Leverkusen welcomed fifth placed Berlin with vital points the only incentive.
With both teams challenging for European competition places as their only reward come the season's end, this match at the BayArena had special significance.
Robson Ponte took the ball from the halfway line to score the first in the fifth minute and six minutes later Hertha's Dick van Burik was sent off for bringing down Andriy Voronin in the area. Leverkusen keeper Hans-Joerg Butt stepped up to score the penalty and a rout looked on the cards.
Marcelinho scored twice to bring Hertha back level, though, and Andreas Neuendorf finished off a swift break to give the visitors an unlikely lead in the 62nd minute.
Leverkusen threw everything forward and eventually grabbed an equalizer when Voronin turned in a Bernd Schneider cross six minutes from time.
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