After Bayern Munich overran Duisburg at home and Hamburg lost away to Dortmund, the Bavarians are that much closer to another Bundesliga title with other also-rans stumbling in their wake.
The celebration continues for Munich after a 3-1 victory over Duisburg
With seven matches left in the 2005-06 Bundesliga season, chances are slim that anyone can deny Bayern Munich of their 19th title. Coach Felix Magath's club had to fight hard on the road to get past relegation candidate Duisburg, but in the end it turned into an easy 3-1 victory. More importantly, their lead ballooned to nine points over Hamburg.
"We did too little in the first half but we showed in the second that we want to and can become Bundesliga champions," said Magath after the game.
Indeed, heading into the second half, his side was down 1-0 after Moroccan striker Abdelaziz Ahanfouf converted a penalty kick in the 40th minute. For the first 20 minutes in the second half, the Duisburg fans could celebrate as the Bavarians found it hard to crack the defense.
When Roy Makaay delivered a cross from out of the schoolbook to Hasan Salihamidzic, the midfielder made no mistake that this would after all be Bayern Munich's day and got the equalizer in the 66th minute. Six minutes later, the Bosnian returned the favour to Makaay. The score was 2-1 before Peruvian front man Claudio Pizarro scored the final goal.
Benjamin Lauth (l) scored for Hamburg but Dortmund went home with three points
Hamburg, Bayern's closest challenger in the standings, stumbled at home against a hard-fighting Dortmund and lost 4-2. Manager Thomas Doll's side now lie nine points behind leaders Bayern. With 23 minutes to go, it looked as if they would keep pace.
Brazilian striker Ailton, acquired in the winter to add some needed firepower, scored his first goal with his new club. It put Hamburg up 2-1 but before the roar of the 56,000 home fans subsided, Tomas Rosicky scored a spectacular equalizer. The turn of events had Hamburg on their heels and the visitors felt it. It took 15 minutes but Florian Kringe then scored the gamewinner. Rosicky scored an empty net goal in stoppage time for the final result.
Schalke hand third place back to Bremen
Heading into Saturday's encounter, the timing of the visit of Schalke's opponent, relegation-threatened Wolfsburg, couldn't have been better, but the hosts had to make due with a 2-2 draw and hand third place back to Bremen. Schalke had a promising start on a quick strike from German national striker Kevin Kuranyi after just seven minutes.
Kevin Kuranyi (ctr) returned after an injury to score once for Schalke
Coach Mirko Slomka's "Royal Blues" then let their engines idle. That was a fatal mistake against the Wolves who bit back in the 29th minute on a goal by Dutchman Rick Hoogendorp. Lincoln put the home side ahead again in the second half. Christopher Lamprecht ruined the celebratory mood of 60,000 Schalke fans by scoring the equalizer 15 minutes from time.
Bremen put the past few weeks of bad play in the Bundesliga behind them with a convincing 5-0 win over outclassed Hanover. It took over 40 minutes for the first goal to be scored by Paraguayan Nelson Valdez, but then they came in droves for Bremen. Valdez found the net two more times. Striker colleague Miroslav Klose and Johan Micoud also scored, and now Bremen are one point ahead of Schalke for third place.
Leverkusen shrug off manipulation accusations
A new scandal is brewing in the Bundesliga. Leverkusen's successful fight to stay in the top flight in the 2002-03 campaign is now being overshadowed by possible payments to fix matches in vital matches at the end of the season.
Former Leverkusen general manager Rainer Calmund (l) is at middle of newest controversy
The 2005-06 squad didn't let the speculations bother them on Saturday as they went on the road and beat Stuttgart 2-0. Former national player Paul Freier improved his chances for a recall from national coach Jürgen Klinsmann by playing impressively in the match, including scoring once. Dimitar Berbatov sealed the game with a header in the 89th minute. With the win, Leverkusen remain in the fight for a spot in the UEFA Cup next season.
Berlin hurt their chances to play in international competition with a 2-2 draw in Mainz. Marko Pantelic got both Berlin goals, including one of the most impressive headers of the season to tie the game just before time. Michael Thurk and American Conor Casey provided the offense for Mainz.
Cologne manage only draw against Frankfurt
Cologne coach Hanspeter Latour needs to do more than gesticulate wildly
Last place Cologne were in desperate need of three points against Frankfurt to preserve what little chance they have of remaining in the first division, but they came away with only a 1-1 draw. Midfielder Christian Springer shocked Frankfurt in the second minute to put Cologne ahead early. Marco Rehmer responded with the equalizer just 14 minutes later for the guests. With 19 points in 27 matches, Cologne can start preparing themselves for the second league.
Kaiserslautern's resurgence continued with a 3-0 home win over Borussia Mönchengladbach which boosted their chances of avoiding relegation in one of two matches played Sunday.
Two rapid-fire first half goals from Halil Altintop and the clincher from Ervin Skela with twenty minutes to go sent Gladbach crashing to defeat with a whimper.
The woeful visitors put up very little resistance as Kaiserslautern clinched the points which kept them in 16th place, the final relegation slot in the 18-team first division. However, they are now just a point behind Wolfsburg and Mainz in the two spots above them and have seven games to make further advances up the league.
The defeat further knocks Gladbach's chances of European football next season and roots them to tenth place.
In Sunday's other game, Arminia Bielefeld drew 0-0 with Nuremberg in a clash between two mid-table sides.