German Bundesliga Roundup, Mar. 20
Bayer Leverkusen moved within seven points of Bundesliga leader Borussia Dortmund on Sunday by beating Schalke 2-0 after an early strike by Eren Derdiyok and an own goal from Christoph Metzelder.
Derdiyok's fifth goal of the season came in the 19th minute, with the striker running onto Michael Ballack's perfectly timed pass before unleashing a powerful dipping effort into the top right corner.
Metzelder's own goal doubled the lead in the 27th, the Schalke defender's attempted clearance of Renato Augusto's cross sailing past the helpless Manuel Neuer.
With seven rounds remaining, Leverkusen is second behind Dortmund, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Mainz on Saturday.
Schalke, which sacked its coach Felix Magath in midweek, remains 10th.
In Sunday's late game, Stuttgart's Georg Niedermeier scored in the fourth minute of injury time in a 1-1 draw at home, to deny Magath a win in his first game in charge of Wolfsburg.
Magath returned on Friday to the club he led to the 2009 Bundesliga title, two days after he was sacked by Schalke.
Niedermeier - a defender - latched onto Christian's Gentner's hopeful cross before stabbing the ball past Andre Lenz from close range.
Brazilian striker Grafite had given Wolfsburg the lead in the 40th minute, when he got ahead of Georg Niedermeier to blast high past Sven Ulreich.
Stuttgart appeals for a penalty - when Shinji Okazaki went down under the challenge of Sascha Riether - were waved away by referee Manuel Graefe a minute later.
Grafite missed the chance to reclaim the lead for Wolfsburg at the death, when his effort was centimeters wide.
Ralf Rangnick will be presented as the new Schalke coach on Monday. Caretaker coach Seppo Eichkorn was in charge for the game at Leverkusen.
Neuer prevented a heavier defeat for the visiting side with a number of outstanding saves.
The Germany No. 1 snapped the ball from the feet of Sydney Sam as the midfielder tried to round him in the eighth minute, and he stretched to deflect Ballack's glancing header from Renato Augusto's free kick a minute later.
Rene Adler denied Edu at the other end in the 16th, when Daniel Schwaab had to scoop the ball away from Raul Gonzalez lurking behind.
The influential Ballack - making a rare start for Leverkusen - created the space for Derdiyok three minutes later, when the Swiss forward's perfect strike gave Neuer no chance.
There was little the goalkeeper could do about Metzelder's unfortunate deflection, and only one team looked like scoring after that, as Schalke was completely overrun in midfield.
"The first half was decisive," Neuer said. "That's when Leverkusen was clearly the better team and we couldn't play any clever football."
Leverkusen's intensity dropped a little after the interval, when Raul shot straight at Adler in a rare attack, before Derdiyok went close at the other end.
Renato Augusto's corner hit the post in the 65th, but few chances were created as the game descended into a series of niggly fouls.
Neuer emerged from his goal to snatch the ball from Renato Augusto in the 78th, and he denied Sam again in another one on one situation in the 87th.
"It was important to play the ball quickly today, We deservedly went ahead and then we could approach it in a relaxed manner," Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes said.
Rolfes downplayed Leverkusen's title aspirations: "If we win every game now, then no one can take second place from us."