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Wolfsburg Consolidate Top Spot with Stuttgart Victory

Bundesliga leaders VfL Wolfsburg bided their time in a tactically stifling game to burst into life courtesy of two wonderful goals by Martin Petrov and beat title rivals VfB Stuttgart 3-0.

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Wolfsburg rallied after a thrashing last week to crush a lacklustre VfB

Surprise package VfL Wolfsburg remained on top of the Bundesliga on Saturday following a comfortable 3-0 home win over VfB Stuttgart.

The three points saw Wolfsburg, only promoted to the Bundesliga in 1997, open up a three-point lead at the summit as second-placed Schalke 04 slipped to a 3-1reverse against Hertha Berlin.

However, Bayern Munich can move to within one point of Wolfsburg with all three points at VfL Bochum on Sunday.

Under Ralf Rangnick, Schalke had won six league matches in a row but it was unlucky seven as Hertha triumphed 3-1 at the Arena Auf Schalke -- their first victory in Gelsenkirchen since 1970.

German champions Werder Bremen missed the chance to close in on the pretenders to their crown with a 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen. Werder are now six points adrift of Wolves back in sixth place.

Since Wolfsburg reached the Bundesliga summit on Sept. 18, everyone has been asking how long it would be before the unfashionable outfit slipped down the ladder. But a 3-0 triumph over Stuttgart at the Volkswagen Arena helped the Wolves have the honor of leading the German standings for another week.

Petrov steals the show

Euro 2004, Bulgarien Dänemark, Gruppe C

Bulgaria's Martin Petrov showed world class quality when finishing two individual goals.

The Wolves were demolished 5-1 by Stuttgart at home last season but surged into a 42nd minute lead through Thomas Brdaric. Some poor defending was pivotal to the goal and this theme continued in the 69th minute when Martin Petrov walzed around Markus Babbel to rifle past Timo Hildebrand.

The Bulgarian attacker grabbed his second in the 76th minute to complete a miserable week for Stuttgart who crashed out of the German Cup to Bayern on Wednesday.

A capacity 61,500 crowd at the Arena Auf Schalke watched Schalke's record run of six successive wins come to an end as Hertha ran out 3-1 winners.

Brazilian Marcelinho opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for Berlin but the hosts restored parity with Hertha goalkeeper Christian Fiedler gifting a goal to Gerald Asamoah after 50 minutes.

Schalke pushed for another goal but came undone on the counter attack with Angolan Nando Rafael (71) and Niko Kovac (83) on target.

Champs falter

Bremen failed to take advantage of the Schalke slip, playing out a 2-2 draw with Leverkusen at the Weserstadion. Miroslav Klose was rested in midweek and showed his sharpness with an instinctive strike in the 19th minute after Bayer goalkeeper Hans Jorg Butt had fumbled a cross.

But Bayer turned the game on its head in the second half with Ukraine international Andrei Voronin equalizing in the 51st minute, and 120 seconds later Leverkusen were in front.

Bulgarian international Dimitar Berbatov, who had hit the post in the first half, took advantage of some invisible marking to head in a corner from the right.

Bremen's Paraguayan supersub Nelson Haedo Valdez salavaged a point with his 72nd-minute leveller, but Werder have some work to do to force their way back into the title race.

Elsewhere Borussia Dortmund, with an injury list totalling 14 players, fell to a 1-0 defeat at Kaiserslautern. Ferydoon Zandi scored from the spot after 71 minutes to pull Dortmund back into the relegation battle.

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