Schalke 04 coach Felix Magath all but conceded the German title race on Sunday, claiming his team were "too soft" to win the Bundesliga.
Magath was speaking 24 hours after watching his players' tame capitulation in a 4-2 loss to relegation-threatened Hanover, a defeat that left them two points adrift of leaders Bayern Munich who drew 1-1 with Bayer Leverksuen.
"We're not too bad to be crowned champions, we're simply too soft," Magath told Sport1 television. "We haven't shown the required winning mentality. We lost confidence in ourselves after the defeat to Bayern [last week]."
Appointed last June Magath denied that his comments were designed as a disingenous ploy to lull Bayern into believing their nearest rivals had given up the chase. He employed similar tactics last campaign before guiding his then club Wolfsburg to the 2009/10 title.
With a smile the former Bayern coach continued: "We don't want to spoil Bayern's party. With Schalke 04 we've enjoyed a superb season and we can finish it in style."
Van Nistelrooy saves the day
In Sunday's action Ruud van Nistelrooy grabbed the late winner in Hamburg's come-from-behind 2-1 win at Vfl Bochum.
Slovenian striker Zlatko Dedic fired the hosts into a two minute lead, with Robert Tesche levelling before the break with former Manchester United and Real Madrid attacker saving the day for the hosts of the Europa League final two minutes from time. Hamburg are sitting sixth, on 48 points, 12 off the top, with Bochum hovering one point off the relegation zone in fourth from bottom.
In Sunday's second game Wolfsburg picked themselves up after being knocked out of the Europa League by Fulham with a 2-0 win at Nuremberg, the goals coming in the second half from Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko and Brazilian Grafite. The win pushed them up a place to eighth, two points below Hamburg with Nuremburg level with Bochum on 28 points but boasting a superior goal difference.
On Saturday Bayern's seven matches in 21 days, including their epic Champions League win over Manchester United, caught up with them as they laboured to their 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. Louis van Gaal's Munich side also have a six-point lead over third-placed Leverkusen and remain on course for a Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble. "We gave too many balls away, which allowed Leverkusen to put us in a few dangerous situations. But we are two points ahead of Schalke and six in front of Leverkusen. It's in our hands."
Werder Bremen's bid for Champions League qualification received a big boost when they thrashed Freiburg 4-0 and fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Mainz. Polish international midfielder Adam Matuszczyk was on target twice for Cologne in a 2-0 victory at Hoffenheim that moved them further clear of the relegation zone.