Three top clubs drew in Saturday’s frigid slate of Bundesliga matches, helping Friday night winners Dortmund earn some daylight in their drive for a second consecutive title.
Bayern Munich, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Schalke, three of the Bundeslig's top four clubs, stumbled to draws on Saturday, allowing Borussia Dortmund to go two points clear at the top.
Gladbach traveled to a chilly Wolfsburg where both teams failed to score, while Schalke played host to Mainz and had to fight back to earn a 1-1 draw. Later in the evening, Hamburg held pre-season title favorites Bayern Munich to another draw at one goal apiece.
Bayern ran proceedings in the Imtech Arena, having the lion's share of possession, but they continued to have problems varying their point of attack and creating clear-cut chances against a defensively determined team.
Falling behind early didn't make things any easier for the Bavarians. In the 19th minute, Hamburg's Jacopo Sala struck Paolo Guerrero’s lobbed pass well, sending a bounding shot past a diving Manuel Neuer. It was the 20-year-old Italian's first Bundesliga goal.
Bayern searched for an equalizer to no avail - until the 71st minute. Hamburg struggled to clear a Bayern corner kick, and a goal from second-half substitute Ivica Olic was the result.
"They might have had more possession, but I think we had the clearer chances," said Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink after the match, pleased with the draw.
Third time lucky
Mohamed Zidan, whom Dortmund had sold to Mainz just a few days prior, looked as though he felt right at home in the visitors' starting line-up in Gelsenkirchen. He put the carnival club in front after 14 minutes, streaking to latch onto a cross-field pass and score with a neat one-timed shot to the near post.
It was the Egyptian's 23rd goal for the club, one for whom he has now played on three separate occasions.
In the second half, Schalke showed more fight, and just inside of the hour mark Chinedu Obasi tied things up. After galloping down the left flank, the Nigerian international did a few stepovers to lose Zdenek Pospech in the area, and capped things off by squeezing the ball in from a tight angle at the near post.
"We played better in the second half and wanted the three points,
but these things happen," said Obasi after the match.
Gladbach, meanwhile, struggled in Wolfsburg. The temperature at match time was a nasty minus 11 Celsius (12 degrees Fahrenheit), and neither team was able to heat things up sufficiently to get on the scoreboard.
Mike Hanke had what looked like a good goal called back for offside in the first half, but he and his running partner Marco Reus had an otherwise fairly quiet game.
Hanke said that "Wolfsburg played a tactically clever game" and that the match had been his club's "toughest all season."
The wolves' coach Felix Magath gave new purchase Ibrahim Sissoko a run in the starting line up. The Ivorian midfielder made little impression, but his inclusion did allow the coach to set a new Bundesliga record for number of players brought into action in the course of a season (36). Magath himself held the record, one he set with Eintracht Frankfurt in 2001.
Schalke and Gladbach, now two and three points off the lead respectively, had headed into the match day knowing that nothing but a win would keep them in touch with leaders Borussia Dortmund, who won away to Nuremberg 2-0 on Friday night.
Just three points off the drop zone, Nuremberg played a very cautious and defensive game which kept Dortmund off the scoreboard until early in the second half. With game time temperatures hovering around minus 12 degrees Celsius, Sebastian Kehl broke the ice in the 48th minute, and Lucas Barrios got his first league goal on the season to seal the win eight minutes from time.
Hertha Berlin and VfB Stuttgart went into the match day under pressure, each having lost their first two games since the winter break. Only one would find much relief.
After a first half in Berlin in which Hertha looked slightly better than Hanover 96, Mohammed Abdelloue put the visitors up with a rifle shot from the edge of area in the 68th minute.
Hertha defender Sebastian Neumann - making his Bundesliga debut - hurt the home side's chances of a comeback seven minutes later when he was shown a second yellow card. The capital club didn't manage to score, and is still searching for its first league win since October.
Stuttgart put up more of a fight in Leverkusen, earning a draw, and snapping a four-game losing streak against Bayer.
Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling opened the scoring after 11 minutes, poking home a rebound from close range after Simon Rolfes' volley forced a reflex save from Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich.
Julian Schieber brought Stuttgart level on 23rd minutes with an indirect free kick struck too low and hard for the former Stuttgart man Bernd Leno to reach. The goal was the powerfully-built striker's first since returning from long-term injury six matches ago.
Bayer would take the lead early in the second half through a Rolfes penalty, but any thoughts Leverkusen may have had about sitting on their lead and cruising to a win went out the window in the 63rd minute. Defender Michal Kadlec pulled Stuttgart striker Cacau's shirt just three minutes after receiving his first yellow card and was sent off, taking Bayer down to ten men.
Stuttgart responded by bringing pressure, and it paid off in the game's penultimate minute, when the substitute Martin Harnik slotted home a goal through Leno's legs.
Christian Molinaro capped off a wild match in injury time by getting sent off, making it ten on ten for the final 90 seconds.
See-saw in Sinsheim
Hoffenheim and Augsburg played to a 2-2 draw in Hoffenheim's home ground in Sinsheim. With the home side still hoping to salvage their pre-season hopes of challenging for Europe and the visitors battling to get out of the drop zone, both clubs would have much preferred a win. They played like it in an action-packed match.
Augsburg striker Sascha Mölders broke a 376-minute scoring drought to put his team up after 30 minutes, but goals from Peniel Mlapa and Sejad Salihovic gave Hoffenheim the lead back.
Sebastian Langkamp brought Augsburg back level with a headed goal in the 72nd minute Hoffenheim's brought on new man Srdjan Lakic three minutes later in an effort to turn the tables once again, but to no effect.
On Sunday, Bremen travel to Freiburg, while Kaiserslautern host Cologne.
Author: Matt Hermann
Editor: Mark Hallam