Winter break lead for Hoffenheim
© AFP

Hoffenheim finish the year as league leaders after coming from behind to seal a 1-1 draw with nine-man Schalke 04 on Sunday as the village team from south-west Germany continued its Bundesliga fairytale. A superb second-half direct free-kick from midfielder Selim Teber cancelled out a first-half strike from Schalke's Gerald Asamoah to put Hoffenheim back on top in their first season in Germany's top flight. The point was enough for Hoffenheim to take over from Bayern Munich as league leaders and having only been promoted last year, the home side enter the winter break as leaders.

"At the end, we could still have won this game, but it was remarkable the way the team came back after being 1-0 down," Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick said after the last league game of the year. "I am pleased we have first place, but I would have been even more pleased if we had got two more points."

Teber said his team will not rest on their laurels. "Now we know we can enjoy our holiday, but we want to do the same now in the second-half of the season," he said.

Tempers boiled over as Schalke had midfielder Jermaine Jones and Orlando Engelaar sent off in the second- half. Germany midfielder Jones picked up an early yellow card after 23 minutes when he body checked Nigeria striker Chinedu Obasi. Hoffenheim's defence then had only themselves to blame when Schalke striker Halil Altintop slid a pass through to Asamoah and the ex-Germany forward smashed his shot past goalkeeper Daniel Haas on 40 minutes.

The home side squandered a string of chances to equalise, but the game degenerated after the break with a flurry of yellow cards. Trouble started in earnest when Schalke's Brazilian midfielder Rafinha bundled Hoffeneim's Sejad Salihovic over the sidelines and picked up a yellow card in the 52nd minute. Only four minutes later Asamoah and midfielder Selim Teber picked up yellows after a tussle. Jones allowed his suspect temper to get the better of him when he hacked down Hoffenheim substitute Luiz Gustavo Dias on 59 minutes. He was shown his second yellow card and the automatic red.

Jones was so incensed he had to be restrained by Schalke coaches as he remonstrated with the Hoffenheim bench on his way to the dressing room and left his side a man down with 30 minutes left. Hoffenheim scored the deserved equaliser when Teber curled in a superb free kick on 71 minutes. Schalke lost another man when Engelaar was shown his second yellow on 80 minutes for yet another heavy challenge.