FC Augsburg also earned a share of the spoils at VfL Wolfsburg, while Fortuna Düsseldorf gave themselves extra breathing space above the bottom three with a convincing victory over VfB Stuttgart.
FC Schalke 04 1-2 Greuther Fürth
At home to the side propping up the rest of the Bundesliga, it came as no surprise that Schalke established an early grip on proceedings. However, with Fürth sitting deep the Royal Blues were restricted to hopeful long-range efforts that did little to threaten Wolfgang Hesl’s goal. Debutant Michel Bastos' impact was undeniable though, as the Brazilian went closest to breaking the deadlock, firing into the side netting from a tight angle approaching the half hour mark.
The visitors were offering very little going forward, but were admirably holding Schalke at bay with their disciplined defending, which continued to thwart the hosts. Roman Neustädter's goal-bound header was well cleared by Milorad Pekovic and though the hosts' dominance showed no signs of abating, coach Jens Keller's charges failed to find a way past Fürth's bulwark before half-time.
Flipping the script
The guests' hard work came crashing down around them within two minutes of the restart though, as Bastos leathered an unstoppable shot into the far corner from 20 yards to open the scoring. The Clover Leaves were forced to push forward in response to going behind and reaped the rewards of investing more up front almost immediately. Nikola Djurdjic found space on the left to square for an unmarked Felix Klaus to tap home at the back post.
Djurdjic promptly fluffed his lines with a chance of his own soon after as Fürth began enjoying a promising spell, although they failed to take the lead despite Schalke’s evident vulnerability. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jermaine Jones both went within inches of a potential winner, but after Timo Hildebrand produced a superb double-save that looked to have rescued a point, a last gasp counterattack resulted in Djudjic heading home over the helpless Schalke keeper to put an end to a run of 17 games without a win for the cellar-dwellers.
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VfL Wolfsburg 1-1 FC Augsburg
South Korean international Ja-Cheol Koo passed a late fitness test, allowing him to face his parent club. He did not get much chance to demonstrate the form that has helped the Bavarians' revival in 2013, though, as the hosts took the bull by the horns and attacked, with an imperious Naldo going close with a trademark free-kick.
The Brazilian put them in front in the 23rd minute with a powerful header from Diego's corner after the playmaker himself had been denied by an excellent save from Alexander Manninger.
Augsburg's reply was not long in coming, with Moravek levelling after just two minutes. Koo was the provider, teeing up the midfielder in the middle to leave Diego Benaglio no chance from close range. The goal came against the run of play, but it sparked the visitors into life. Moravek tested Benaglio with a shot from just outside the penalty area before Daniel Baier was also denied by the Swiss custodian.
Augsburg, who appear to be a different team since the turn of the year, continued to belie their league position with a confident, courageous game. A succession of dangerous set-pieces from Baier had Wolfsburg fearing they would come away beaten, but in the end, Augsburg also seemed happy enough to settle for a point, their fifth in three games in the New Year.
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1899 Hoffenheim 2-1 SC Freiburg
Heurelho Gomes and David Abraham both made their Bundesliga bows, but soon found themselves behind on their debuts. Freiburg's Max Kruse reacted quickest to seeing his initial effort parried by Gomes, pouncing on the rebound before finishing with great composure. Hoffenheim looked likely to be cast adrift by the visitors' pressing game in the fast-paced opening exchanges, but leveled the scores when Kevin Volland bundled home the 500th goal of the Bundesliga season after Roberto Firmino had struck the woodwork.
The early goals put the spice back into the Baden-Württemberg derby, with neither side resting on their laurels in a hard-fought, yet open encounter. However, the guests' determination to play out from the back cost them dearly before half-time, as Oliver Sorg concended possession, allowing Tobias Weis to tee-up Volland for his second of the afternoon, sending Hoffenheim in at the break with a lead for the first time since Matchday 5.
Hoffenheim hold on
Freiburg came out of the dressing room with the bit between their teeth, but despite forcing Gomes to come to his side's rescue on occasion, they were overcomplicating their link-up play in the final third and allowing Hoffenheim to recover their positions all too often. The hosts were running the risk of holding a deeper line whilst seeking out their opportunities on the counter, with Igor de Camargo going close with a cheeky toe-poke.
The Black Forest outfit were dictating the pace of the game and creating all the pressure, but with Gomes providing a much-needed commanding presence in goal, Hoffenheim's backline looked a lot more secure, ensuring Freiburg stayed at arms' length. Desperate defending was the order of the day in the closing stages but with clear-cut chances at a premium, the scoreline remained the same, as 1899 put an end to a run of nine games without a win to climb out of the automatic relegation places.
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Fortuna Düsseldorf 3-1 VfB Stuttgart
Fortuna appeared keen to bounce back after losing their first two matches of 2013 and they started brightly, with Robert Tesche striking the inside of the post only for the ball to roll agonisingly along, but not over, the goalline. They made the breakthrough two minutes later though, as Tesche set up Kruse, who beat the offside trap and Sven Ulreich.
Fabian Giefer was not having such a busy afternoon in the Fortuna goal, but had to remain alert to prevent Gentner from sneaking an equaliser in the 26th minute. It was a rare Stuttgart attack with Fortuna probing more frequently, and getting their reward in the form of a second goal from Kruse shortly before the break. Ken Ilsö sent the Australian through with an inch-perfect pass, and the nippy midfielder made no mistake with only Ulreich to beat, sending the Stuttgart goalkeeper the wrong way.
Federico Macheda was brought on to make his Stuttgart debut at the start of the second half, while Ibrahima Traore was also introduced by Bruno Labbadia, who was clearly not happy with what he had seen in the opening 45 minutes. Traore made the most of the opportunity by providing the assist for Gentner to bring the Swabians back into the game on the hour mark.
His cross from the left was met by the unmarked midfielder at the far post, as he reduced the arrears on the volley. Shinji Okazaki was Labbadia's final throw of the dice, but within five minutes of his introduction, they were 3-1 down, Fink completing the scoring with a distance shot which Ulreich failed to keep out, as Fortuna wrapped up the win.
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