In the race to top the Bundesliga table, Werder-Bremen failed to make up ground on leading Bayern Munich. The northern German team was forced to settle for a goalless draw against Stuttgart.
Werder Bremen and Stuttgart suffer a goalless night
Bremen looked set to close the gap on German leader Bayern on Wednesday after the southern rival only managed a 0-0 draw against Hertha Berlin on Tuesday. But Bremen missed out on the chance to reduce the gap after failing to pull ahead in the match against Stuttgart.
The team's striker, Paraguayan Nelson Valdez, wasted a handful of goalscoring opportunities while the absence of injured top scorer Miroslav Klose was deeply felt. Bremen tied 0-0 against Stuttgart.
Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf acknowledged his team's weak playing. "We could have won the game," he told reporters, "but we didn't make use of even the clearest chances."
As a result, Bremen stayed in second position, just ahead of third-placed Hamburg, which slipped to a surprise 2-1 defeat at Hanover. Bayern kept its eight-point lead over the pack.
Bayern lead with 51 points from 20 matches and look set to take a 20th Bundesliga title, while Bremen have 43 points and Hamburg 41.
Hamburg falls behind
Hamburg's third-place ranking comes after it fell behind following a loss to Hanover. A 48th-minute goal from Hanover's Dariusz Zuraw kicked off the unexpected win and was followed up by a goal by Iranian international Vahid Hashemian in the 72nd minute.
Hanover's Ricardo Sousa, left, and Hamburg's David Jarolim compete for the ball
Hamburg struggled to keep up and a header by Sergej Barbarez in the 81st minute brought the northerners up a point. But the visitors were unable to find a last-minute equalizer.
To round off a poor night for Hamburg, recently signed veteran Brazilian striker Ailton was carried off the pitch after suffering a broken jaw and is expected to be out for several weeks.
Hamburg's rush for the Bundesliga title looks over now.
Coach Thomas Doss admitted Hamburg was sitting in the doldrums. "It really annoys me that we seem to make teams like Nuremberg and Hanover stronger, even though they are well within our capabilities," he told reporters.
Gladbach's Thomas Broich, left, challenges for the ball with Schalke's Fabian Ernst
Meanwhile Schalke 04 stayed locked in fourth spot after a goalless stalemate away to Borussia Monchengladbach.
Bayer Leverkusen notched up a 4-0 victory over Wolfsburg, giving their former coach a miserable return play. "I had imagined my return rather differently," Klaus Augenthaler said. "I could see today that we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Leverkusen have a chance of a UEFA Cup spot as one of seven clubs in mid-table range.
FC Nuremberg failed to move away from the relegation zone as they lost 1-0 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, with Greek striker Ioannis Amanatidis driving home the winner just before half-time.
Nuremberg is now fourth from bottom, a precarious four points ahead of last-ranked Kaiserslautern.