"Score more than you concede" seems to be Werder Bremen's over-riding philosophy this season. The defense keeps leaking but the goals keep coming in Bayern Munich's chief rival's pursuit of the runaway leaders.
Keep 'em coming: Klasnic and Co. are banging the goals in as Bremen chase Bayern
Werder Bremen conceded a goal after just 14 seconds but then produced the comeback of the season to stay within eight points of leaders Bayern Munich with a 4-2 win over Mainz 05 on Saturday.
Bremen looked to be heading for their fourth defeat of the season after conceding twice in the first 13 minutes. The first of those goals came after just 14 seconds scored by Egyptian international Mohamed Zidan - the sixth fastest in Bundesliga history.
But Bremen showed great character to level and then clinched the points with Paraguayan international Nelson Valdez bagging a brace.
"We were watching our opponents and deserved to go 2-0 down," confessed Bremen manager Thomas Schaaf. "Fortunately we got back into things at the end of the second half and fought back after the awful start."
Super-fast strike rattles Zidan's paymasters
Mainz loan star Zidan opened the scoring against his owner club
Egyptian international Zidan, on loan at Mainz from Bremen, was the focal point heading into the Bremen-Mainz clash at the Weserstadion and the striker took just 14 seconds to make Bremen regret allowing him to take part in the fixture.
"He did not know if he was allowed to celebrate," said Bremen sporting director Klaus Allofs.
Zidan took advantage of some woeful defending to fire the fastest goal of the season and Niclas Weiland added another on 13 minutes to leave Bremen staring defeat in the face.
Former Bayern Munich striker Giovanni Elber and ex-Bayer Leverkusen striker Ulf Kirsten hold the record for the fastest ever Bundesliga goal at 11 seconds. Elber set the record in 1998 and Kirsten equaled the mark in 2002.
But Bremen average 2.5 goals a game in the Bundesliga and produced an amazing comeback with Valdez pulling a goal back on 39 minutes before Frenchman Johan Micoud and Croatian international Ivan Klasnic scored two more in first half stoppage time.
Valdez added another to show their prowess in front of goal but Italian champions Juventus, their last 16 Champions League opponents on February 22, will have noted the defensive flaws with interest.
"We could have gone 3-0 up but Bremen kept streaming forward and in the end they deserved to win," said Mainz chief Jürgen Klopp.
Bayern grind out another win to make it 16 out of 19
Michael Ballack never lets sentimentality affect him when playing his former club
Bayern Munich could have gone 11 points clear at the summit had Bremen stumbled but had to settle for a ninth successive home victory with Bayer Leverkusen the latest victims in a 1-0 reverse.
In contrast to the maverick approach of the Bremen defense, Bayern look rock solid at the back and that was underlined once again on Saturday.
"We were lucky not to go behind but when we scored it gave us the confidence to control the game," said Bayern manager Felix Magath.
Despite the win, Magath indicated there was more to come from Bayern -- if the condition of the pitch improved. "The uneven pitch is the reason why we cannot play better at home," he added.
Former Leverkusen favorite Michael Ballack, who helped the club reach the 2002 Champions League final, scored the vital goal on 36 minutes chesting the ball before dispatching a brilliant volley into the net.
It was Bayern's 16th win in 19th games and continued a remarkable run for Munich goalkeeper Oliver Kahn who has not tasted defeat in a home match against Bayer for 16 games.
Hamburg recover to keep title hopes alive
Third-placed SV Hamburg remain a point behind Werder Bremen and they also needed to come from behind to secure the spoils in a 2-1 win over Arminia Bielefeld.
Hamburg's Sergei Barbarez completed the comeback with the winner
Hamburg, the only German team to beat Bayern this season, stayed in touch with Bremen despite falling behind to an Isaac Boakye goal which put visitors Arminia ahead on 26 minutes. Six minutes into the second half and Hamburg were level through Piotr Trochowski and the comeback was completed when Bosnian international Sergei Barbarez scored the winner with 73 minutes on the clock.
Elsewhere the biggest game of the day was the 127th Ruhr derby between Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund but the two arch rivals could not be separated in a scoreless draw which made more headlines for the crowd trouble before the game than the match itself.
Schalke lose ground on Hamburg, now six points ahead, in the race for the three Champions League spots, while Dortmund miss the chance to close on fifth-placed Hertha Berlin who occupy the final UEFA Cup spot.
Gladbach's European hopes dented by resurgent Wolves
On Sunday, a revived Borussia Mönchengladbach had their hopes of playing in Europe next season dented when they were beaten 2-0 away to VfL Wolfsburg.
Mike Hanke stole the show in Wolfsburg win with a goal and an assist
Wolfsburg took the lead at the end of the first half with an emphatic finish from Diego Klimowicz and German international Mike Hanke grabbed the second in the 64th minute.
Gladbach, who could have gone up to fifth with a win, drop to eighth place with 25 points after a second successive Bundesliga defeat.
New Wolfsburg coach Klaus Augenthaler's home debut showed a marked improvement in overall quality, the lack of which precipitated the departure of Holger Fach in the mid-season break.
Hanke makes case for inclusine in World Cup squad
And it was also good news for Germany coach Jürgen Klinsmann who was handed a happy World Cup selection headache by Hanke's outstanding performance in the second striker's role. The former Schalke striker made a convincing case for inclusion by setting up Klimowicz for a series of chances and showing great technique to score the clinching second
"Hanke was great again," Augenthaler said. "He has one great target in front of him -- to play in a World Cup on home soil."
Hanover 96 drew 1-1 with Nuremberg in Sunday's other game.