Bayer 04 Leverkusen stretched their lead at the top of the 1. Bundesliga to four points on Saturday afternoon after a 4-2 victory in an incident-packed match at 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
Kirsten equals record
Leverkusen got a dream start with the second quickest goal in Bundesliga history when Ulf Kirsten netted after just 12 seconds. Bernd Schneider crossed from the right for Kirsten who took the ball down and drilled home from 15 metres. The fastest goal belongs to FC Bayern München's Brazilian marksman Giovane Elber, who struck after eleven seconds against Hamburger SV in January 1998.
Training ground move
Leverkusen's lead was doubled after 16 minutes when Kirsten's team-mate Oliver Neuville scored after being played in by Schneider in an intricate free-kick move. Kaiserslautern, sixth in the 1. Bundesliga, pulled a goal back seconds before the half-time whistle when Hany Ramzy fired home from the edge of the penalty area.
Vratislav Lokvenc pulled the hosts level after 55 minutes, but a Michael Ballack penalty in the 76th minute was followed by a Dimitar Berbatov goal ten minutes later to restore Leverkusen's two-goal advantage.
Diego Placente was dismissed a minute from the end to tarnish Leverkusen's day, but the win more than compensated, particularly seeing as title rivals BV Borussia Dortmund lost 3-2 at VfB Stuttgart.
In Stuttgart, second-placed Dortmund found themselves two goals behind at the break after Sean Dundee and Silvio Meissner had scored for the home side. Defender Christian Wörns pulled one back for Dortmund six minutes into the second period, only for Ioan Ganea to restore Stuttgart's two-goal advantage on 63 minutes and despite Jan Koller making it 3-2 with eleven minutes left, Dortmund could not find an equalising goal.
Elsewhere, champions Bayern lost ground in the title race when they could only manage a goalless draw at Hamburg, a result that leaves the Bavarians seven points behind Leverkusen in third place. To make matters worse for Bayern, Mehmet Scholl was injured in his first game back after four weeks. The German international will be out for ten days with a thigh strain.
Joy for Mönchengladbach
In Saturday's other games two second-half goals for VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach saw them earn a 3-1 win at home against Hertha BSC Berlin. Marcelinho had cancelled out an early Mönchengladbach goal after 33 minutes to leave the scores level at half-time but Lawrence Aidoo scored twice in the second half to seal an excellent victory.
Max power inspires 1860
A Martin Max hat-trick saw TSV 1860 München secure an implausible win against FC St. Pauli. 1860 were trailing 2-1 and had been reduced to ten men after the dismissal of Marcus Weissenberger for a second bookable offence when Max struck three times in twelve minutes to overwhelm the relegation threatened Hamburg side.
Elsewhere, fellow strugglers 1. FC Nürnberg won 3-0 against VfL Wolfsburg to raise their hopes of escaping the drop and FC Energie Cottbus continued their drive to safety with a 2-0 win against SC Freiburg. Also today, Hannover 96 returned to the 1. Bundesliga after a 13-year absence. 45,000 fans saw Hannover emerge as comfortable 6-0 winners over Schweinfurt 05.
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