Surprise package Hoffenheim stayed top of the German Bundesliga after a 3-0 home win Saturday over Arminia Bielefeld but Bayern Munich stayed in hot pursuit with a 2-0 victory at Bayer Leverkusen. Bosnian Vedad Ibisevic, the league's top-scorer with 17 goals, and Carlos Eduardo scored inside the opening 11 minutes before Francisco Copado netted a last-minute spot-kick to make it 11 league wins and 34 points from 15 games.
Bayern are second, three points adrift, after Luca Toni, with a header, and Miroslav Klose scored after the break to move them above a Bayer Leverkusen side who had stood third at start of play. Third are Hertha Berlin, a point behind Bayern. The Berliners beat Cologne, 2-1, on Friday.
Village side Hoffenheim, who have come from nowhere after consecutive promotions to sit atop their perch backed by multi-millionaire entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp, were paid a major compliment by Bielefeld coach Michael Frontzeck. "They totally deserved the win," he said. "For me, Hoffenheim are the best team in Germany right now."
Hoffenheim counterpart Ralf Rangnick said his side were still finding their way at the top level but managing to stay consistent. "That was a tough game but we have found a good level of consistency," he said. "If I had to criticise, then we might have scored a few more today."
Bayern must wait to see if their unexpected rivals slip up but the Bavarians' coach Jurgen Klinsmann said their earlier form problems are now behind them. "I'm very happy with the win," he said. "We made a sticky start to the Bundesliga season - but now we're really on our way."
Hoffenheim continued their fairytale season after taking their goals tally to a remarkable 40 after Ibisevic fired home acrobatically for the opener on five minutes from a cross by Turk Selim Teber and Carlos Eduardo ended a solo run with a clinical finish. Copado then clinched matters with his penalty after Michael Lamey fouled Demba Ba.
Jurgen Klinsmann's Bayern put one over Bayer Leverkusen, coached by former Bayern man Bruno Labbadia, after Italian World Cup winner Toni netted his seventh league goal 12 minutes after the restart. Klose celebrated his 250th career league appearance after good work by Frenchman Franck Ribery. Bayern survived without German international forward Lukas Podolski, whom Cologne would like to re-sign.
At the wrong end of the table, Energie Cottbus moved out of the drop zone after they notched their third win of the campaign by claiming a 3-1 success at former giants Borussia Moenchengladbach. Chelsea misfit Claudio Pizarro managed the individual exploit of the day with a hat-trick as his Werder Bremen thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt, 5-0, on the River Weser. Pizarro, on loan from Stamford Bridge, had bagged two by the 20th minute and then completed his treble in the 63rd minute, sandwiching a Diego penalty and clincher from Aaron Hunt. The win moved Werder up to seventh, ahead of Schalke but still a point behind Borussia Dortmund, who could close to within a point of Leverkusen if they defeat strugglers Wolfsburg on Sunday at home.
Also Sunday, Schalke travel to Stuttgart hoping to cement European ambitions while Hamburg will do likewise at Bochum. A win for Martin Jol's northerners would take them into the top four.