Dortmund drop to Bundesliga basement with draw vs. Leverkusen

Separated by 13 places in the Bundesliga, but both headed for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund canceled each other out in a 0-0 draw on Saturday night where the sides looked much more even than their league situations suggest.

While there was no immediate step off the bottom of the table for Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund, his side did produce a scrappy midfield battle against a talented team that is unbeaten at home in the league this season. They did not create enough up front, however, so remain last and still struggling to find real league form as they prepare to host Augsburg on Wednesday.

Leverkusen fell to fifth place with the draw, failing to match wins by Borussia Moenchengladbach and Schalke earlier in the day. While Dortmund may have taken some solace from the one point, Leverkusen might well regard it as a lost evening as they drifted eight points behind second place VfL Wolfsburg and 16 back of leaders Bayern Munich.

An even first half saw Leverkusen produce the best two chances, but Mats Hummels cleared his line and Roman Weidenfeller tipped a dangerous lob over his bar as the teams went scoreless. Hummels was in much sharper form than in the first half of the season and that helped Dortmund’s rearguard look more secure than it had as the team unexpectedly sunk to the bottom of the league.

That did not change even when Klopp was forced into a halftime change, Lukasz Pisczek unable to return because of a thigh problem. Neven Subotic came on at the back.

Dortmund made the first real opening after the interval but Bernd Leno was equal to a challenge from Ciro Immobile, who swept in on the right but perhaps narrowed his shooting angle too much before tesing the Leverkusen keeper.

Leverkusen looked the more dangerous, however, with Karim Bellarabi particularly influential when on the ball in his wide role. A chance went begging when Steffen Kiessling set up Gonzalo Castro in the 76th minute, but Castro’s chip from 16 yards went over both the advancing Weidenfeller and the crossbar.

BUNDESLIGA RESULTS

Borussia Moenchengladbach and Schalke 04 carved out narrow 1-0 victories Saturday afternoon to move into joint-third place in the Bundesliga. Gladbach got past VfB Stuttgart while Schalke hung for its home triumph over Hannover 96.

Elsewhere Mainz buried Paderborn 5-0, Freiburg got a hat trick from Nils Petersen in a 4-1 romp past Eintracht Frankfurt; Cologne collected all three points at Hamburg with a pair of second half goals from Marcel Risse.

Schalke broke on top in the 32nd minute when Marco Hoeger was set up by Christian Fuchs. Fuchs put a cross through the box from wide on the left and Hoeger then shot through a crowd of players from 18 yards to the near right corner.

They then needed a late, precise tackle from Benedikt Howedes to keep Joselu, who had gotten around the keeper, from equalizing four minutes before the break. Hannover again nearly got level in the 58th minute when Schalke keeper Fabian Giefer was beaten by a cross from the left, but the ball somehow skidded along the line and out past the opposite post.

Schalke had to work hard to conserve the advantage and finished with 10 men when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar saw a straight red card with five minutes remaining. That means Huntelaar won’t be available for the Tuesday trip to Bayern Munich.

Gladbach didn’t get on top until the 71st minute, but then it was a well-worked left side counter from Branimir Hrgota and a fine supporting run from Patrick Herrmann that paid off. Herrmann surged into the box on the inside right channel, accepted the pass 15 yards out and hammered it into the top net.

At Freiburg Eintracht Frankfurt’s Marco Russ scored one of the fatest goals of the season, needing just 45 seconds to be in the right place to stretch out to a Marc Stendera free kick from the right and tuck the ball into the right corner but that proved to be ponly a moment of glory for the visitors.

HEAR US OUT

Freiburg came back in the second half, Vladimir Darida equalizing from the penalty spot just after the hour, then Petersen being sent in by Felix Klaus four minutes later to put them on top. Petersen got another in the 70th minute, then completed his hat trick in the final minute.

Mainz took the lead in the seventh minute when Pablo DeBlasis found Yunus Malli with room on the top right outside the box. Malli took one step to his left and then hit the far corner. Malli got his second just 50 seconds after the second half began, free on the left with time to pick the right corner this time.

DeBlasis then scored himself, a 20-meter strike in the 69th minute before Sami Allagui headed home the fourth from a corner kick with seven minutes remaining. Johannes Geis finished matters with an 88th minute penalty.

Cologne’s go-ahead goal will be one that Jaroslav Drobny won’t enjoy seeing on tape. The Hamburger SV keeper let a Marcel Risse shot get through his legs from an extreme angle on the right in the 63rd minute. Drobny had no chance when Risse got his second 15 minutes later to spoil the return of striker Ivica Olic to his former club.

The round concludes with Werder Bremen vs. Hertha Berlin and Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim on Sunday, then there is a full Tuesday-Wednesday program with everyone immediately in action again.