German Bundesliga Roundup, Feb. 20
Stefan Kiessling scored twice to help Bayer Leverkusen to a 4-2 home win over Stuttgart in the Bundesliga on Sunday.
His last-minute strike came after Stefan Reinartz's powerful header gave Leverkusen the lead for the third time in the 81st minute.
Leverkusen's Gonzalo Castro's 41st-minute header and Kiessling's sixth-minute opener had both been canceled out by goals from Martin Harnik and Zdravko Kuzmanovic.
Stuttgart remains second from bottom and four points from safety.
"It's very, very annoying," Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia said. "That hurt today."
Leverkusen reclaims second place from Bayern Munich with 45 points, 10 behind Borussia Dortmund.
Last-place Borussia Moenchengladbach won at home for the first time this season with a 2-1 win over Schalke in the late game, in Lucien Favre's first game in charge.
The 53-year-old coach took over on Monday, following the sacking of Michael Frontzeck, and saw his side come from behind with Marco Reus and Mohamadou Idrissou goals canceling Peer Kluge's second-minute opener.
"We played very well, except for the first minute," Favre said. "It was very important to win and it was deserved."
Moenchengladbach remains bottom, but cuts the gap to safety to four points with 11 games left to play.
Patient buildup from Leverkusen - which started with Michael Ballack on the bench - led to Kiessling's opener when Sydney Sam skipped past Cristian Molinaro on the right and crossed into the box. Castro failed to connect properly, but Kiessling was there to slot past Sven Ulreich from close range.
Harnik equalized in the 16th, when he latched on to Tamas Hajnal's perfectly timed pass and held off the challenge of Daniel Schwaab before firing into the bottom right corner.
Leverkusen reclaimed the lead when Michal Kadlec crossed for Castro. His initial shot was parried by Ulreich, only for the defender to head in the rebound.
Zdravko Kuzmanovic equalized from 30 meters (yards) in the 52nd, when Ulreich failed to stop his shot despite getting a hand to it.
After making his Stuttgart debut against Benfica on Thursday, Japan striker Shinji Okazaki nearly marked his Bundesliga debut with a goal in the 57th, when his effort from distance was narrowly wide.
Ulreich's fingertip save pushed Cacau's driving effort on to the post shortly afterward, and the striker had another effort ruled out for offside.
Sam's shot from distance with ten minutes remaining was Leverkusen's first on goal in the second half, and Reinartz made the next one count a minute later.
Cacau missed a late chance to equalize again when he dragged his shot wide, before Kiessling sealed the win.
"It's a heavy blow because the team did a lot correctly. We were closer to the third goal when the score was 2-2 than Leverkusen," Labbadia said.
After his side's first win at home since April 2010, Favre said "it's possible to avoid the drop".
His tenure got off to a bad start when Peer Kluge gave Schalke the lead in the second minute.
The home side deservedly equalized ten minutes later, when Marco Reus collected the ball and let fly from 13 meters (yards) for his sixth goal of the season.
Mohamadou Idrissou's header gave Borussia the lead in the 23rd, when he got in front of Christoph Metzelder to power Juan Arango's fine cross past Manuel Neuer.
Borussia played with greater intent, and Patrick Herrmann should have scored before halftime, when his snap shot from an Arango cross drifted over Neuer to the left of goal.
Jefferson Farfan fired a warning shot narrowly over the bar for Schalke in the 51st, and Idrissou went even closer with his header from a Reus corner five minutes later.
Herrmann had another chance in the 79th but was unable to direct Idrissou's cross on target with only Neuer to beat, and Klaas Jan Huntelaar went close with an overhead effort at the other end.