Bayern Munich's 1-0 win over reigning champions Werder Bremen on Saturday kept the Bavarian giants on top of the Bundesliga. But Schalke's 2-0 victory over Bochum kept the Royal Blues in the hunt.
Munich's Michael Ballack actions say it all -- goal for Bayern!
Bayern Munich narrowed the German championship down to a two-horse race grinding out a 1-0 win over reigning champions Werder Bremen at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
German international Michael Ballack headed the decisive goal after seven minutes and Bayern survived a second half onslaught from Bremen to clinch a vital three points. "It was not a great game by any means," admitted Ballack. "But we took the points and stay top of the table which is important ahead of the Schalke game."
Bremen fall seven points behind the pacesetters and must now concentrate on netting third place and the final Champions League slot. Thomas Schaaf's double winners traveled to Munich on the back of five successive league wins but failed to recover from the early Ballack goal.
Former Bremen star Torsten Frings delivered the cross for Ballack to kill off the champions.
Former Bremen favorite Torsten Frings curled in a precise corner from the right and Ballack evaded three Werder defenders to power a header past Andreas Reinke. "We knew Ballack was good in the air before the match but lost concentration," explained Bremen chief Schaaf. "We had an uphill task after Bayern scored so early on."
The goal arrived in the seventh minute and seemed to persuade Bayern to sit back and invite Bremen pressure. Paraguayan Nelson Valdez and Fabian Ernst both went close to canceling out Bayern's lead as the hosts played a dangerous game. But somehow the Bayern backline -- marshaled brilliantly by Brazilian Lucio -- held firm to defeat Bremen for the third time this season.
Schalke still in the race on goal difference
Ailton scored his 100th league goal to keep Schalke in the title race.
Bayern remain top of the 18-strong Bundesliga but Schalke 04 only trail on goal difference after a 2-0 triumph at Ruhr rivals VfL Bochum. Brazilian marksman Ailton scored his 100th Bundesliga goal on the half hour to put Schalke ahead and compatriot Lincoln clinched the spoils.
"We were concentrated from the very first minute and I never felt we were in danger," said Schalke handler Ralf Rangnick. "If there was a criticism it would be we failed to score more goals late on."
Bayern and Schalke are now deadlocked on 50 points and come head-to-head next Sunday at the Arena Auf Schalke.
A Champions League match at Arsenal on Wednesday is the next challenge for Felix Magath's side who hold a 3-1 lead from the first leg in Munich. Dutch international striker Roy Makaay must sit out the match after sustaining a thigh injury three minutes from time. "Arsenal are very good at home but we are solid at the back and I am confident of going through," added Ballack.
Leverkusen beaten ahead of vital Liverpool clash
Leverkusen come off the 1-0 defeat to Hamburg to face Liverpool in the second leg of their Champions League match on Wednesday.
Bayer Leverkusen are another team poised to face English opposition in the Champions League on Wednesday with Liverpool visiting the BayArena holding a 3-1 cushion from the first leg. Bayer stumbled to a 1-0 loss at SV Hamburg on Saturday that puts an enormous dent in their hopes of qualifying for the competition next season.
Belgian international Daniel van Buyten headed the all-important goal on 21 minutes as Bayer's aerial weakness was exposed once again. "Van Buyten is a tall lad so sometimes he is going to score from set-pieces," explained Bayer manager Klaus Augenthaler.
The reverse sees Leverkusen slump to seventh in the table although they are still only four points behind third-placed Bremen.
Hertha miss golden opportunity
Hertha celebrate clinching a point from the jaws of defeat.
Hertha Berlin failed to capitalize on Bremen's slip-up halving the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Kaiserslautern on Sunday. Defender Alexander Madlung rescued a point for Hertha with an 85th minute effort as the capital club moved into fifth.
VfB Stuttgart took advantage of stumbles from their rivals to surge up to fourth courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Arminia Bielefeld. Croat defender Zvonimir Soldo and Brazilian Cacau were on target as Stuttgart closed to within one point of Bremen.
Busy day for Ref as BVB clinch draw
A messy but entertaining match saw BVB clinch a draw.
Beleaguered Borussia Dortmund scraped a 2-2 draw with FC Nuremberg in the other Sunday game in which the referee awarded three penalties, two in the last four minutes, and sent off FC Nuremberg's Mario Cantaluppi for his ironic applause at the one that went against his team.
Dortmund had gone ahead through Christian Wörns in the 62nd minute and rode their luck when Marek Mintal missed from the spot four minutes later. However, Nuremberg's usually prolific striker got off the mark by equalizing after a terrible defensive mix-up in the 76th minute.
Cantaluppi gave away a penalty four minutes from time and was sent off for his reaction after Tomas Rosicky had scored to put Dortmund ahead again but there was still time for Robert Vittek to win and convert another penalty and earn his side a point from an entertaining game.