Stefan Kießling (r.) opened the scoring for Bayer Leverkusen against Nuremberg...
Stefan Kießling (r.) opened the scoring for Bayer Leverkusen against Nuremberg...

Leverkusen march on with Mainz and Stuttgart in tow

Munich - Bayer 04 Leverkusen kept up the chase of FC Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga with a 1-0 victory over 1. FC Nuremberg while there were also wins for 1. FSV Mainz 05 and VfB Stuttgart over Hannover and Greuther Fürth respectively. Meanwhile, FC Augsburg and SC Freiburg shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1-0 1. FC Nuremberg

Fresh from moving into second place during midweek, Leverkusen wasted little time putting themselves on the front foot with Hajime Hosogai and Stefan Kießling both forcing Rafael Schäfer into routine saves early on. Nuremberg began getting stuck in to unsettle Bayer, but unfortunately the visitor's profligacy in front of goal saw two golden chances go to waste as Timo Gebhart curled over before Sebastian Polter crashed a header off the underside of the crossbar.

Tightly-contested throughout

Leverkusen heeded the warning and promptly opened the scoring as Andre Schürrle found an unmarked Kießling, who finished neatly on the turn to hand the hosts a narrow lead at the break. Die Werkself could have been out of sight, but Nuremberg emerged from the changing rooms with real purpose and soon began assuming control of the proceedings as Mike Frantz and Polter both spurned chances from promising deliveries.

While Bayer were intent on defending their lead, der Club's pursuit of an equaliser left them vulnerable to the counter-attack. Gonzalo Castro provided the biggest threat in front of goal as Schäfer twice denied the midfielder adding to the scoreline, before clawing Manuel Friedrich's powerful header off the line with time winding down. Nuremberg disappeared without a trace in the closing stages and, although Simon Rolfes rattled the woodwork with a late effort, Leverkusen were content consolidating second place with a professional one-goal victory.

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1. FSV Mainz 05 2-1 Hannover 96

The ten men of Mainz downed Hannover 96 with Nicolai Müller and Adam Szalai on target for Thomas Tuchel’s troops and Christian Schulz scoring only a consolation for the guests in a 2-1 defeat with the hosts playing much of the second half with one man less after goalkeeper Christian Wetklo was given his marching orders.

Bright opening

Mainz, triumphant at Frankfurt in midweek, appeared to have been given an injection of confidence with that win as they took to the field at the Coface Arena with a certain swagger about them. Shawn Parker was the unexpected hero of the midweek derby and Tuchel kept his faith in him, and the forward tried to repay it early on when his speculative shot took a deflection off Karim Haggui to loop over the goal.

Only ten minutes were on the clock when Mainz took the lead, thanks also to the endeavours of Parker, whose shot was too hot for Ron-Robert Zieler to handle as he palmed it onto the post. Müller was the quickest to react as he pounced on the loose ball to give the home team a deserved lead. They lost it 18 minutes later though, when Lars Stindl’s shot was deflected and Schulz somehow managed to bundle the ball over the line as he fell.

Defiant ten men

Mainz’s hopes of launching an offensive to take all three points in the second half were dented when Wetklo saw red for handling the ball outside the penalty area. Parker was sacrificed as Loris Karius came on, and he was called into action immediately to push a Christian Pander shot away. The hosts regrouped and plugged away valiantly, eventually managing to find a winner in the 89th minute when Eugen Polanski’s cross was met by Szalai, who nodded home his ninth goal of the season to secure FSV all three points.

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FC Augsburg 1-1 SC Freiburg

Augsburg lifted themselves off the foot of the Bundesliga thanks to a 1-1 draw with SC Freiburg, with Tobias Werner’s goal cancelled out by Jonathan Schmid for the visitors.

First-half goals

Werner signalled his intentions with a marauding run forward in the fifth minute which was cut short by the linesman’s flag. There was no stopping him from putting the Bavarians in front four minutes later, though, as he latched onto Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker’s throughball and nudged the ball through the legs of the onrushing Oliver Baumann before reeling away to celebrate. Jan Rosenthal had the ball in the back of the net in the 16th minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside as Augsburg were let off the hook.

Freiburg soon regained parity through Schmid, who was on hand to convert the rebound after the dangerous Rosenthal’s shot was only parried by Mohamed Amsif in the 28th minute. Freiburg were certainly made to fight for their point, losing Sebastian Freis and Rosenthal to injuries in the first half. They lost a bit of their bite in the process and, as the minutes ticked away, Augsburg began to sense their chance.

Off the bottom

Aristide Bance was brought on as an additional striker and he set up Werner, whose header was just inches wide. Werner continued to cause problems as Augsburg looked for a winner with their fans getting behind them, but they were unable to find one, although the point was enough to take them off the foot of the table.

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SpVgg Greuther Fürth 0-1 VfB Stuttgart

The opening exchanges between Fürth and Stuttgart left a lot to be desired, as errant passes littered the play, but the hosts were fortunate not to go behind when Vedad Ibisevic lost his marker only to head straight at Wolfgang Hesl from Gotoku Sakai's cross. Greuther were at times finding space on the break, but failed to make best use of a clear sight of goal just past the half hour mark when Edgar Prib fired wide under pressure from five yards out.

Hard work unrewarded

Then, just when it looked like the sides were due to go in level at half-time, an unceremonious challenge on Ibisevic produced a penalty and, though the Bosnian international's spot kick was saved, Shinji Okazaki was on hand to head home the rebound with virtually the last touch of the half. Only last-ditch defending prevented the hosts equalising straight from the restart as Sakai cleared off the line before Christopher Nöthe hit the post with Stuttgart's backline at sixes and sevens.

The match certainly swung in Fürth's favour when Serdar Tasci picked up a straight red for a reckless challenge on Milorad Pekovic, yet the hosts continued to struggle to carve out scoring chances. Being reduced to ten men did not prevent Stuttgart from seeking out a second goal themselves as Hesl once again came to the hosts' rescue, this time denying Martin Harnik in a one-on-one situation. Greuther didn't give up hope, but despite Prib hitting the crossbar with a curling free-kick and Thanos Petsos going close, the Franconian outfit were left to ponder for their ninth defeat of the season.

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