Leaders Leverkusen held, late goal stuns Stuttgart


Hamburg: Leaders Bayer Leverkusen were held to a disappointing goalless draw at Hanover to give rivals Werder Bremen and Schalke 04 a chance to close the gap at the top in Bundesliga.

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With Saturday’s win Leverkusen, the league’s only unbeaten side, moved four points clear of Werder Bremen and third-placed Bayern Munich, who defeated Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-1 Friday evening.

It was a club record – 15 games without a defeat at the start of a season for Leverkusen who had to thank keeper Rene Adler for keeping out the home side but also rued a number of missed chances.

“A team that that has claims to play at the top has to take its chances and we didn’t do that today,” said coach Jupp Heynckes.

Bremen can close the gap to one point with a win at Cologne on Sunday, while fifth-placed Schalke – six points adrift – can also advance when they entertain bottom club Hertha Berlin.

VfB Stuttgart’s winless Bundesliga run meanwhile stretched to eight games when they conceded a late goal in a 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Bochum.

Around 100 angry Stuttgart fans had initially prevented the team bus from entering the stadium before the match, and there were jeers for the team as they left the pitch. Around 1,000 fans gathered outside the stadium after the match to vent their frustration.

A 63rd-minute header from defender Serdar Tasci seemed to have been enough for Stuttgart, especially when Bochum’s Diego Klimowicz was shown a red card with nine minutes remaining.

But Stuttgart were stunned when Christian Fuchs levelled for Bochum in the 89th minute following a free-kick to put further pressure on coach Markus Babbel and the beleaguered club management.

Babbel, who last week was given until the winter break to turn fortunes around, told Sky Sports television he would be taking no decisions on his future in the heat of the moment.

“The result is a great disappointment. We were leading 1-0 and I didn’t feel Bochum looked like being a danger,” he said.

“We had been playing with a lot of concentration particularly in the second half so it was particularly disappointing to concede the goal.”

The defeat keeps Stuttgart in the relegation zone, third last on 12 points.

SV Hamburg and Hoffenheim finished goalless, a result which helped neither side. It was a seventh league game without a win for Hamburg who are fourth, six points behind Leverkusen. Hoffenheim remain sixth, a further point behind.

On-form Borussia Dortmund breezed to a 4-0 win over Nuremberg, their eighth league game without defeat, to move to seventh. Nuremberg drop second last, level on 12 points with Stuttgart.

Kevin Grosskreutz, Lucas Barrios and Mohamed Zidan scored first-half goals before Mats Hummels headed a fourth on the hour.

Champions Wolfsburg twice came from behind to share four goals with Freiburg but stay off the pace in eighth place.

Fabian Johnson rescued a point for Wolfsburg eight minutes from time after Freiburg had opened the scoring in the 19th minute through Cameroon striker Mohamadou Idrissou and again took the lead when Ivica Banovic converted a penalty six minutes after the break.

Wolfsburg had levelled in the 27th minute when a cross from Makato Hasebe was headed into his own net by Felix Bastians.

In a mid-table tussle, defender Maik Franz slid the ball over the line in the 29th minute and Alexander Meier scored in the last minute to give Eintracht Frankfurt a 2-0 win over Mainz who had Chadli Amri dismissed after a second booking midway through the second half.