Freiburg won the Baden-Württemberg derby, beating visitors Stuttgart 3-0. The victory lifts the small town side four places to sixth in the league. Meanwhile, Leverkusen beat Hoffenheim and Gladbach drew with Augsburg.
"We want to really annoy them," promised Freiburg coach Christian Streich ahead of the Baden-Württemberg derby at home to Stuttgart, a fixture they often lift themselves for - or so the statistics suggest. He also insisted that, despite being two places above their regional rivals going into the game, Stuttgart were the "big club" in the south-west, and a victory over the region's big city team would be a "red-letter day" for Freiburg.
But all false modesty was swiftly put aside in the first period, as Freiburg attacked with confidence from the opening whistle. The home side applied consistent pressure when they didn't have the ball, and moved forward in numbers and at speed when they took possession.
Stuttgart, whose away record was bettered only by Bayern and Dortmund before this game, were not intimidated, and midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic struck the post with a smart shot after 20 minutes.
Then again, just two minutes later, the home side got their reward. Freiburg, once again counter-attacking efficiently, did not stop when Jan Rosenthal was fouled outside the area on the left. The young German midfielder picked himself up just in time to receive the ball and strike an excellent low shot inside the near post, well out of the reach of Stuttgart keeper Sven Ulreich.
Freiburg settle it
Freiburg were unable to add to their lead in the first half, despite keeping the pressure up after the goal. Stuttgart predictably came out of the break with more intent, and should have equalized within 90 seconds of the restart, after both Shinji Okazaki and Cristian Molinaro contrived to miss a low and not particularly quick cross that skimmed the six-yard box.
The home side continued where they had left off, and their counter-attacks came with breathtaking speed. Too often, though, they ended with a long-range shot that Ulreich could deal with. For Stuttgart, meanwhile, Molinaro unleashed a spectacular volley from 30 meters that would have been one of the goals of the season if Freiburg keeper Oliver Baumann hadn't clawed it out of the top corner.
For all the free-flowing open play, it was a set piece that led to Freiburg's second goal in the 67th minute. It was a somewhat contentious free kick, since referee Tobias Welz decided that, because the ball was rolling the first time, it had to be taken again. When it was finally sent into the box, Ulreich only half-punched the ball, and Freiburg defender Pavel Krmas took advantage of the ensuing scramble.
After that, Stuttgart slumped a little - perhaps feeling the after-effects of the 5-1 victory over Bucharest in the Europa League on Thursday - and the goal that decided the game came just six minutes later, and was devastatingly simple. A long high ball from midfield was nodded down unchallenged by Daniel Caligiuri into the path of Max Kruse, who expertly slotted the ball between Ulreich's legs before any defender could challenge him.
Europa League hangovers
Meanwhile, two more of Germany's Europa League representatives had to tackle tricky away games after their Thursday night exertions. Both Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach traveled to the lower reaches of the Bundesliga, playing away to 16th-placed Hoffenheim and last-placed Augsburg respectively.
But they dealt with mid-week hangovers very differently. Augsburg got off to a fantastic start in their 1-1 draw with Gladbach. They took the lead in the fifth minute with a long-range header from Sascha Mölders after Kevin Vogt crossed the ball to the edge of the area. Gladbach keeper Marc-Andréter Stegen was caught stranded off his line after the ball looped over his head.
The unfancied Bavarians then consummately frustrated Gladbach, playing well above their place in the table. The Foals could barely create a chance from open play, and were reduced to trying to threaten from set-pieces.
Augsburg's defensive frailties told in the end - though it took until the 85th minute. A speculative cross was clumsily headed on by Augsburg defender Gibril Sankoh right into the path of Patrick Herrmann, who cleverly chipped the keeper to equalize. In the end, both sides had good reason to be disappointed in the result - Augsburg were very close to a victory against a tired-looking Gladbach.
Leverkusen hang on
Leverkusen dominated the opening period in their 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, and took the lead in the 15th minute after Hoffenheim failed to clear a free-kick. Some awkward head tennis in front of the home side's goal finally landed at the feet of Lars Bender, who slammed the ball in.
Hoffenheim could answer only with long-range efforts, though some of them - especially a crossbar rattler from Roberto Firmino that had Bernd Leno beaten in the Leverkusen goal - did look venomous.
But then Leverkusen doubled their lead in the 38th minute through talented Spanish defender Daniel Carvajal, who exchanged a lovely, Messi-esque one-two with André Schürrle on the edge of the Hoffenheim area. He then coolly rounded the home side's second-string goalkeeper Koen Casteels, who replaced the injured Tim Wiese, and hitting the ball into the empty net from a tight angle.
Forced into a gamble, Hoffenheim coach Markus Babbel brought on Eren Derdiyok and Sven Schipplock at half-time, and the effect was immediately apparent, with Derdiyok in particular making trouble in the Leverkusen defense in the first five minutes of the second half.
The hosts duly pulled one back in the 59th minute through Fabian Johnson, whose shot from inside the area was decisively deflected off the head of Kevin Volland, leaving Leno with no chance.
The hosts then ran riot, pressuring Leverkusen all over the pitch. Surprisingly, Schürrle and friends could not repeat their first half control, and eventually were reduced to hanging on for their win.