It was by no means pretty but on the way to Bundesliga titles, there are always games like it. Oliver Kahn stopped a second-half Kaiserslautern penalty after goals from Michael Ballack and Roy Makaay to preserve Bayern Munich's 2-1 win in the Bundesliga on Sunday. The result also handed Bayern the honorary distinction of winning the first half of the season a week before the winter break.
Kahn, in a tense battle with Arsenal's Jens Lehmann to win Germany's goalkeeping job for the 2006 World Cup, dived to his right and deflected Ervin Skela's penalty away in the 59th minute after Philipp Lahm had tackled Halil Altintop in the box.
"I had a feeling he would go for that corner and it was a bit of luck that it all worked out the way it did," Kahn said.
"Actually, it was only their second shot on goal and the first went in so the 50-percent quota wasn't really that good at all."
In the second Sunday match, Werder Bremen's attack went into overdrive again with four goals -- they lead the league with 45 in 16 matches -- to overcome an early Cologne advantage and strengthen their hold on third place. They are two points behind Hamburg SV and six adrift of leaders Bayern.
Miroslav Klose scored twice, raising his league-leading total to 16, while Johan Micoud and Naldo added a goal apiece for Bremen. Hungary's Imre Szabics gave Cologne the short-lived lead with a score in the 24th minute. It was the 11th match without a win for Cologne.
Hamburg keep pace
For weeks now people have been expecting the Hamburg bubble to burst but the 1983 European champions show no sign of falling apart chalking up their 11th win of the campaign in a 2-1 victory against Hertha.
Hamburg will need to add Berlin's Dick van Burik to their Christmas card list. First the defender scored an own-goal in the second minute to give the visitors the lead, then, six minutes later, a van Burik foul allowed Hamburg's Mehdi Mahdavikia to place the ball on the penalty spot and then into the net past goalkeeper Christian Fiedler.
"We were fortunate to be two goals up after eight minutes," admitted Hamburg coach Thomas Doll. "We should have scored a third but didn't and had to face an anxious few minutes."
Hertha's Marcelinho joined the capital city's fouling club, receiving his second yellow of the game in the 52nd minute for prolonged complaining. Despite being helplessly down two goals and one player, Yildiray Bastürk capitalized on a mistake by Hamburg keeper Sascha Kirschstein and closed the gap to 2-1 with 15 minutes left in the game.
"Two stupid bookings for Marcelinho and we have a lot of work to do," raged Hertha defender Niko Kovac. "I think we could have got something here -- having 11 players would have helped though."
Schalke still have European hopes
Schalke 04 were able to solidify their hold on fourth place and a UEFA Cup berth thanks to a 1-0 home victory against Mainz. Marcelo Bordon scored arguably the goal of the day in the 58th minute for Schalke when he assured his team of three points in the second half.
Schalke could have made the result clearer in the 17th minute, but Lewan Kobiaschwili failed in his attempt to get a penalty shot past Mainz's Dimo Wache.
Still the victory wasn't enough to convince Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick to change his mind and stay with the club next season. On Friday Rangnick said he would leave his position at the end of the season because he couldn't take the team internal politics. Schalke general manager Andreas Müller said he and Rangnick would "sit down together" after the final game of the year next week.
Gladbach coach: We forgot to score second goal
Hanover made the most of the momentum of the last three games under Peter Neururer with a 1-1 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach. He saw his side tie on a goal from Jiri Stajner after Gladbach's Brazilian striker Kahe put the visitors ahead.
"After our bad game against Nuremberg you could see the team wanted to win," Gladbach coach Horst Köppel said. "But unfortunately we forgot to score the second goal, or we also could have won."
Currently in ninth place, Hanover, consistently a middle-of-the-field finisher, are now knocking on the top half to the league's door.
Frankfurt continue winning streak
Eintracht Frankfurt continued Borussia Dormund's tumble down the German top flight table by continuing their own four-game ascent. Frankfurt coach Friedhelm Funkel will no doubt be pleased with three points from the 2-0 win on his birthday. Francisco Copado opened scoring in the ninth minute and Ioannis Amanatidis closed the score six minutes before time.
Dortmund's situation doesn't look like it will improve next week either as they will have to do with out Czech International Tomas Rosicky. He was sent off with two yellow cards in the 72nd minute.
"We started to play soccer after the first 20 minutes," Dortmund trainer Bert van Marwijk said. "We didn't need to lose this game."
Frankfurt are now six points clear of the drop zone after MSV Duisburg and FC Nuremberg both split points.
Relegation zone to be decided Sunday
Duisburg dismissed their coach Norbert Meier in midweek - after he head butted a Cologne player in Tuesday's Bundesliga encounter -- but it did not have much of an impact on the players who settled for a 1-1 draw at Arminia Bielefeld.
"That is naturally not enough for us," said Duisburg assistant coach Heiko Scholz. "The week's events left the team unsure of itself."
Bayer Leverkusen were able to draw a 1-1 tie at Nuremberg thanks to a goal from German international Bernd Schneider. Leverkusen have, however, still gone four games without a win and Nuremberg will continue waiting for a home victory under Hans Meyer.
The draw specialists from Stuttgart proved they could also book three points by beating Wolfsburg 1-0, handing Giovanni Trapattoni (photo) his fourth victory of the season thanks to a goal from Silvio Meißner.
"We met a very determined Wolfsburg team," Trapattoni said. "At the end we had the extra little bit of luck they were missing."