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Top Trio Pulls Away in Bundesliga

German international midfielder Michael Ballack's header saved three points for Bayern Munich in Cologne. Bremen and Hamburg also win as the top trio in the league is beginning to pull away.

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A beaten Munich keeper Oliver Kahn (r) would celebrate in the end

A five-game winning streak has done much to dampen the spirits of Cologne's fans but it didn't stop 50,000 of them from streaming to the Rhein Energie Stadium to see their side face Bayern Munich. The crowd fired their club on to a strong first-half performance that was highlighted by Matthias Scherz' third season goal and a 1-0 lead. But they filed out of the grounds disappointed as Bayern defender Lucio and midfielder Michael Ballack scored second-half goals to give Munich the victory.

The loss heightens the crisis in Cologne as coach Uwe Rapolder has to wonder what can be done to gather the club's first victory since a 2-1 defeat of Mönchengladbach on September 17.

Felix Magath

Munich coach Felix Magath waves his arms in disbelief but his side would win 2-1 in Cologne

It was not to be against a less than satisfactory performance from Bayern in the eyes their coach Felix Magath. That's why it's good to have international performers like Lucio and Ballack who can turn around even a bleak game.

"We can be happy about a lucky victory," commented Magath dryly.

It came about with some help from the referee whose decisions affected the game's outcome. Ballack's gamewinning head ball goal came in the 74th minute off a corner kick wrongly awarded to the league-leaders. Then in the waning moments, Cologne were denied a penalty kick as Lucio apparently used his hands to deflect the ball in the penalty box. As Magath said, it was a lucky victory.

Bremen overcome weak start to win

Bundesliga: Werder Bremen gegen Eintracht Frankfurt

Werder Bremen's Miroslav Klose clinches his fists in joy over his 11th strike of the season

Werder Bremen remain two points behind Munich in the standings after a clear 4-1 win over guests Frankfurt. The central Germans came into Bremen with a convincing 6-3 thrashing of Cologne under their belts. The excellent effort continued and coach Friedhelm Funkel's team proved they could play with the best of them when Ioannis Amanatidis put them up 1-0 in the 19th minute.

After that though, Thomas Schaaf's Bremen took control of the game. International midfielder Torsten Frings knotted up the game with a head ball in the 29th minute and the score was 1-1 at half. Tim Borowski scored twice and Miroslav Klose also found the net for his league-leading 11th goal although it was preceded by a hand ball.

"After the go-ahead goal in the second half we couldn't keep up with Bremen. It was a deserved victory for Werder," admitted Funkel.

Third-place Hamburg also kept pace with the best, and in the process handed Schalke their first loss of the season. Defender Mehdi Mahdavikia scored the lone goal in the 19th minute in a roughly-played match in which referee Fandel handed out five yellow cards and sent off Schalke stopper Christian Poulsen for two bookings. The "Royal Blues" now are a massive ten points behind Bayern as this campaign is taking on the appearance of a three-horse race.

Gladbach series halted

The biggest surprise in this young season has been Borussia Mönchengladbach. They lost to their namesakes from Dortmund 2-1. Gladbach were never really in this match as the homeside Borussia Dortmund dictated play most of the game. Nevertheless, Gladbach remain in fifth-place, even on points with Schalke and Berlin.

Bundesliga Stuttgart Hertha

A common sight: Stuttgart's goalkeeper Dirk Heinen watches the ball rolling over the goalline

Hertha Berlin benefited from the Schalke and Gladbach losses in the most entertaining match on Saturday, drawing 3-3 with Stuttgart. The guests from Berlin led 1-0 after one half and then the fireworks began as the lead changed hand two times. Colorful Berlin midfielder Marchelinho has found his form again, having scored once and assisting on the other two goals. Stuttgart coach Giovanni Trapattoni's side never surrendered though. Mario Gomez got the equalizer with seven minutes remaining to save the Italian coach who has had to listen to loads of rumors about his release this past week for the next match against Nuremberg.

Henke also given a reprieve

Just like in Stuttgart, Kaiserslautern's coach Michael Henke has been suffering under his squad's sub-par performance. He made the right decision as his team was behind 2-1 in the 87th minute by bringing on rarely-used Turkish striker Berkant Götkan. The 25-year old scored just three minutes later for a 2-2 final.

Bundesliga, 1. FC Kaiserslautern - Bayer 04 Leverkusen

"There, there, everything's just fine," would seem to be Lautern coach Michael Henke's (l) reaction

"I'm very disappointed," said Leverkusen coach Michael Skibbe who has yet to win in three matches with the club. "That so many of our players were pushing up front (at the end) was completely unnecessary."

Wolfsburg had gone through a tough three weeks. Coach Holger Fach's side had come away with four hard-earned points against Bayern Munich, Hamburg and Schalke. The game against Duisburg was a well-deserved break but they underestimated the "Zebras" who scored their second victory of the season, and even escaped the relegation zone with a 2-0 win that was hardly threatened by the toothless Wolves.

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