Dortmund stride on, Bayern held
Borussia Dortmund were 13 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga today after second-placed Mainz lost at Stuttgart and champions Bayern Munich drew 1-1 at Wolfsburg in a game where both sides missed penalties.
Borussia had blitzed Bayer Leverkusen with three goals in six minutes yesterday as Jurgen Klopp's young side showed no sign of releasing their grip at the top. Goals by Dortmund's Germany squad members Mario Goetze and Kevin Grosskreutz sealed the win as Michael Ballack spent the game on the bench as the German captain looks to return from a leg injury.
After ex-England coach Steve McClaren sold striker Edin Dzeko to Manchester City over the winter break, Wolfsburg lacked firepower up front against Bayern, but showed dogged domination against the champions. Bayern's Dutch star Arjen Robben conceded Dortmund may now be too far ahead for Munich, who are 16 points off the pace, to retain their title.
"There's no point talking about first place any more, as several of us have already said," admitted Robben after making his first appearance of the season. "Obviously, there's always hope while it's still theoretically possible, but we're just too far behind.
"You have to accept and also respect that. It's simply a superb achievement by Dortmund, you can already congratulate them on winning the title. Dortmund are simply too far ahead."
Bayern opened the scoring when Thomas Mueller went one-to-one with goalkeeper Deigo Benaglio for a loose ball, 20 metres out, and the ball bounced off the Munich man's legs and into the empty net early on. Philipp Lahm then saw his penalty attempt slam off the post after he beat Benaglio following a foul on Bayern's Danijel Pranjic by Ashkan Dejagah on 21 minutes.
There was bad news for Bayern four minutes later when playmaker Franck Ribery, who has only just come back from injury, went over on his ankle while competing for the ball and limped off. But Bayern showed the strength of their squad when Robben came on for his first appearance of the season since picking up thigh injury at the FIFA World Cup™ last July.
Dejagah then won a penalty for the hosts when he was fouled by Bayern's Germany defender Holger Badstuber in stoppage time at the end of the half. Bayern goalkeeper Thomas Kraft, who was making his Bundesliga debut, showed he could cope with the pressure by pulling off a reflex save from Brazil striker Grafite.
Wolfsburg secured a point when defender Sascha Riether netted with less than five minutes to go. Mueller almost poached victory when he found the target in the 89th minute, only for his effort to be ruled offside.
In Saturday's late match, Real Madrid target Ruud van Nistelrooy scored the only goal in Hamburg's 1-0 win over Schalke, who have reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Real are reported to be interested in re-signing the Dutch striker, who spent four years in Madrid, but the German side are keen to hold onto their forward. The result leaves Schalke 10th and Hamburg seventh.
Bottom side Borussia Moenchengladbach gave themselves a boost in their battle to stay up with a 1-0 win at Nuremberg with goalkeeper Christofer Heimeroth making a dramatic late penalty save. Senegal striker Papiss Demba Cisse scored twice to go top of the league's goalscoring list with 15 goals as he helped his side sneak a 2-2 draw at St Pauli.
Bremen picked up a rare win after captain Torsten Frings drilled in a free-kick in the second minute of injury time to seal a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim which left his side 12th.