Hoffenheim still on top

Another five-star performance from France midfielder Franck Ribery helped third-placed Bayern Munich to a 4-1 win over Energie Cottbus on Saturday to keep the pressure on Bundesliga leaders Hoffenheim.

Midfielder Ribery has now scored a goal in each of Bayern's last six league games and he unleashed a stunning first-half free-kick before creating another for Germany striker Miroslav Klose as the win kept Munich third in the table.

"What an exceptional player Franck Ribery is, he set us on the right course," beamed Bayern coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the game. But Klinsmann said his side should have scored even more goals. "We are content with the three points, even if I would have liked to have seen us score a few more goals," he added. "We had sufficient chances to extend the lead and slowly we are getting where we want to be."

But Hoffenheim's 3-1 win in Cologne put them back on top of the table with a three-point gap ahead of both their nearest rivals Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern. Bayern play Leverkusen next weekend in what is now a key league battle, with both sides locked on 25 points, before Munich play Hoffenheim a week later at home. "We play now against Leverkusen and Hoffenheim in the next few weeks and that will go a long way to where we are in the table in mid December," added Klinsmann.

Bayern got off to a terrible start against bottom club Cottbus when Albanian midfielder Ervin Skela curled in a free-kick on 25 minutes which was allowed to fly through the Munich defence. Goalkeeper Michael Rensing was incredulous with anger as his defenders left him exposed, not for the first time this season.

But the home side were level just four minutes later when Ribery curled a superb free-kick just inside the post to make his goal-scoring record six goals in nine league games. And Munich then took the lead at the AllianzArena when Argentina defender Martin Demichelis headed his side ahead on 38 minutes.

A superb cross from Ribery on 54 minutes was headed home by Klose, and a cross from Italian defender Massimo Oddo four minutes later was smashed home by compatriot Luca Toni to complete the rout.

Impressive record
League leaders Hoffenheim are now three points clear of rivals Bayer Leverkusen after their 3-1 win at Cologne. Ten-man Hoffenheim picked up their tenth win of the season after the league's top scorer Vedad Ibisevic powered through the Cologne defence, and with a hint of offside Demba Ba unleashed his shot on 32 minutes.

And Ibisevic later grabbed two of his own in the second half to add to his impressive record of 16 goals in 14 games although Cologne grabbed a consolation goal. Hoffenheim were reduced to ten men when Brazilian defender Luiz Gustavo Dias was sent off, after he was shown a second yellow card for a heavy challenge.

Second-placed Bayer Leverkusen are now level on points with Bayern, after they went went down 2-1 down to Arminia Bielefeld. Hertha Berlin kept up their pressure on the league leaders with an impressive 3-2 win at snowy Bochum.

Schalke 04 moved up to sixth in the league thanks to their 3-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach. There was a rough afternoon for ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann as he leaked four goals in Wolfsburg's 4-1 win over Stuttgart.

Eintracht Frankfurt did their flagging league position the power of good with a rampant 4-0 win over Hanover. On Friday, Borussia Dortmund went fifth in the table after their 1-0 win over Karlsruhe, while on Sunday, Hamburg host Werder Bremen.