A hat-trick by Germany striker Oliver Neuville helped leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen crush Hamburger SV 4-1 on Saturday to move four points clear of second-placed FC Bayern München in the 1. Bundesliga.
Jörg Albertz opened the scoring for Hamburg in the seventh minute but the home side fought back with goals from midfielder Michael Ballack and Neuville to lead 2-1 at the interval. Neuville added two more after the break to secure three more points for Leverkusen - the only Bundesliga side undefeated after 14 games in the campaign.
Seven straight victories
Leverkusen, who are chasing their first German crown have now recorded seven straight victories, coming back from a goal down in the last five. "We looked fresher than in the last few games," said Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller. "The boys showed plenty of determination and Hamburg can be relieved not to have lost by even a wider margin."
Pizarro misses penalty
Defending champions Bayern, who surrendered top spot to Leverkusen when they lost 1-0 at SV Werder Bremen last weekend, saw Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro miss a penalty in the first half as they managed only a goalless draw at home against lowly 1. FC Nürnberg.
The European champions, who squandered numerous opportunities after the break, now head for Tokyo where they take on Club Atlético Boca Juniors of Argentina in the European/South American Cup on Tuesday. They will be without captain Stefan Effenberg for that game as the playmaker was substituted at half-time on Saturday after tearing a muscle in his right thigh.
Three matches without victory
The 33-year-old, who had only recently returned after more than three months on the sidelines with a foot injury, was expected to be out of action for ten days. Bayern, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League last Tuesday, have now gone three matches without victory following a run of nine straight wins in the Bundesliga.
Bremen climb fifth
SV Werder Bremen climbed into fifth place with a 4-1 defeat of FC Schalke 04. Goals from Germany forward Marco Bode and Brazilian Ailton Gonçalves put them 2-0 ahead by the break and any doubts about the result were dismissed by a Viktor Skripnik penalty and a 25-yard lob from Krisztes Lisztes. Danish international striker Ebbe Sand headed the home team's goal before the hour mark.
Wolfsburg defeat Mönchengladbach
VfL Wolfsburg defeated VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 to move one place above their opponents to tenth in the table. Wolfgang Wolf's side, who did not win any of their first seven league games this season, now lead Mönchengladbach by a point after goals by Tomislav Maric and Robson Ponte and an own goal by Marcello Pletsch gave them a decisive win. Peter van Houdt struck the visitors' consolation after 64 minutes.
Zellweger's debut strike
Swiss defender Marc Zellweger scored on his debut as 1. FC Köln defeated FC St. Pauli 2-1. Andrew Sinkala got the other goal for the visitors while American defender Cory Gibbs headed a late goal for the Hamburg team. Elsewhere, FC Energie Cottbus held VfB Stuttgart to a 0-0 draw and a late Marko Rehmer goal earned sixth-placed Hertha BSC Berlin a 1-1 draw with FC Hansa Rostock at the Ostseestadion.
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