Hamburg, Bayern Munich's closest rival, stumbled against lowly Nuremberg while the specter of a runaway threatens the Bundesliga. In the league's cellar, Cologne manager Hanspeter Latour's debut was an unhappy one.
Hanspeter Latour was unable to lend a hand to his Cologne club
Bayern Munich's 3-1 victory on Friday evening and a nine-point lead in the Bundesliga raised the stakes for second-place Hamburg. The northern Germans, fortified by the arrival of striker Ailton, had a relatively easy task against a weak home side Nuremberg.
But teams that are dead in the water are apparently the last ones to perish and Nuremberg turned around a one-goal deficit to win 2-1. Coach Thomas Doll's Hamburg must now swallow a bitter almost-truth that a title in the 2006 season can be written off. Ailton started the match but did not provide the looked for firepower.
Hamburg's Ailton (l), still with a little winter cushion, didn't score in Nuremberg
The offensive punch was provided by Nuremberg alone. An own goal by Andreas Wolf put Hamburg in front in the 64th minute. Three minutes later, Iwan Saenko got the equalizer. Stefan Kiessling scored the game winner in the 73rd minute.
Nuremberg head Hans Meyer couldn't be happier that the "club" scored twice against the league's stingiest back line.
"Two goals against Hamburg! No team has been able to do that (this season)," Meyer exclaimed afterwards.
Bitter debut for Cologne manager
Cologne's Lukas Podolski (m) must be wondering if he's on the right team
Cologne entered the second leg with a new manager, Swiss Hanspeter Latour. The team around German international Lukas Podolski desperately needed a new direction, but a 4-2 loss against Mainz, a fellow team potentially battling relegation was a bad start.
Things looked good for the squad from the Rhine when Matthias Scherz, took a pass from "Prince Poldi" Podolski to secure a 2-1 advantage against the home side early in the second half.
But coach Jürgen Klopp's Mainz, always strong at home, retaliated with goals from Michael Thurk, Mohamed Zidan and Benjamin Auer. With the loss, Cologne's supporters must be very worried if their team can avoid its fourth relegation in nine years.
Wannabe contenders only reach a draw
Berlin's Marcelinho (blue) with new hair color but his side only drew
Hertha Berlin, always a possible contender at the beginning of each Bundesliga season, were hoping to get off to a hot start in freezing temperatures in the capital city but instead were only able to walk off the permafrost pitch with a 1-1 draw against Hanover. The guests went up early on a goal from Christoph Dabrowski. Afterwards the affair took on the character of a one-way street for Berlin who were finally rewarded with a goal from defender Dick van Burik in injury time.
In Leverkusen, coach Michael Skibbe's team chalked up their first victory in seven matches with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Frankfurt. Leverkusen played miserably in the first half and were lucky to be down only 1-0 going into the locker room. Substitute Paul Freier got the equalizer before goalkeeper Jörg Butt got the winner on a penalty kick.
Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg entered their fixture riding three-game losing streaks. When it was over, the Wolves had a four-game losing streak, dropping the match 3-2. Salvatore Gambino scored the match-winner but the final score was closer than the game really was.
Another club fearing relegation, Duisburg, could hand their new coach Jürgen Kohler a 1-0 victory against Stuttgart. In a match that had few highlights, Marco Caligiuri, on loan from Stuttgart, scored the winner.