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Hoffenheim pulls clear as Leverkusen loses
by Ian Plenderleith, November 24th, 2008 7AM

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[GERMANY] There was a time when U.S. soccer channels would broadcast three live Bundesliga games per weekend. Now that it's become the most competitive and watchable league in Europe, coverage has for some reason been scaled back, while GolTV's excellent highlights program "Hallo Bundesliga" seems to have disappeared. Yet another high-scoring weekend, with only one game producing less than three goals, should have the broadcaster re-prioritizing the German top flight.

The one game televised live was Sunday's testy but tasty northern German derby between Hamburg and Werder Bremen. Bremen's Brazilian playmaker Diego leveled Martin Guerrero's early strike with yet another beautifully struck free kick, but the winning goal from Ivica Olic, sweetly sent on its way with his left foot from 25 yards out into the top corner, was a worthy winner of any game. The Croat's fifth goal of the season kept Hamburg, appropriately enough, in fifth position.

Hamburg coach Martin Jol said his team started well, and in the second half "showed passion and fight, while Werder played a better game. You can't really say our victory was deserved, but of course I'm very happy." His Werder counterpart Thomas Schaaf agreed: "The result was bad of course, but the performance very good." Despite having scored 32 goals in 14 games, his team sits only ninth.

Hoffenheim's Bosnian striker (and St. Louis product) Vedad Ibisevic continued his remarkable scoring run with two more goals, taking him to 16 for the season, as his team went three points clear at the top with a 3-1 win at Cologne. The other came from his striking partner Demba Ba, who looks relatively unprolific with just seven. Coach Ralf Rangnick unsurprisingly declared himself "very happy" with the game and the result, while Cologne's Christoph Daum hinted that his team needs to be tougher: "Maybe we let ourselves be wiped off the field a little bit today. Because Hoffenheim's foul count was higher."

Bayer Leverkusen lost ground with a surprise defeat at Bielefeld, which won 2-1 and pulled itself out of the relegation zone thanks to goals from Artur Wichniarek and Daniel Halfar. Leverkusen's goal from Patrick Helmes was not enough, just as it had been for Germany midweek in the 2-1 loss to England. Leverkusen coach Bruno Labbadia thought that "with a bit of luck we could have made it 2-2, but today we let go of the hand brake a bit too late."

That loss allowed Bayern Munich, with an easy 4-1 home win over bottom-place Energie Cottbus, to draw level with Leverkusen on points. Franck Ribery was again the savior after Ervin Skela had had the audacity to put Cottbus ahead with a free kick. Ribery equalized the same way before goals from Martin Demichelis (for once scoring at the right end), Miroslav Klose (his fifth of the campaign, set up by Ribery) and Luca Toni (his sixth) sealed the win. "The team's finding its rhythm," said Bayern coach Juergen Klinsmann, although he somewhat greedily wished that his side had scored "a couple more goals."

Breathing down the neck of Bayer and Bayern in fourth place is Hertha Berlin, which raced into a 3-0 first-half lead at Bochum through its two Brazilians, Rafael and Cicero, and one from Serbian midfielder Gojko Kacar. A second-half Bochum comeback fell just one goal short, helped possibly by the fact that Bochum coach Marcel Koller "got a bit loud" at halftime, in his own words. Hertha's Lucien Favre complained that his team "lost concentration" in the second half. Maybe they were affected by the noise coming from the other locker room at the interval.

An even better second-half performance came from Wolfsburg, which hit Stuttgart four times, including three in the final quarter hour, after going in at the interval 1-0 down. Brazilian forward Grafite scored twice, taking his season's total to 11, while his Bosnian strike partner Edin Dzeko claimed the other two. "At halftime we pulled ourselves together and sounded the charge. And it paid off," said Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath. Stuttgart's Armin Veh, meanwhile, saw his team "mentally break down in the second half." Not to mention defensively.

Of the three Americans in action, only one had a good weekend. Neven Subotic helped anchor the Dortmund defense in a 1-0 win at lowly Karlsruhe, keeping his side sixth. Michael Bradley played through for Borussia Moenchengladbach as it fell, 3-1, at Schalke, for whom Halil Altintop scored twice. And Steve Cherundolo's Hannover lost 4-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt, but if it's any consolation, Eintracht's coach Friedhelm Funkel said, "We didn't have the best of days and the score was way too high. So we have to be self-critical." On the other hand, how bad is it to lose 4-0 to a team not having its best day?

Goals scored weekend Nov. 21-23: 34 in nine games (3.78 per game)
Goals scored in 2008-09 season: 390 in 126 games (3.1 per game)

 



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