Record-breaking Leverkusen pip Bayern to top spot

Football News - German Football News

Sun, Feb 21st - AFP

BERLIN, Feb 21, 2010 (AFP) - Bayer Leverkusen set a new Bundesliga record of 23 consecutive games unbeaten Sunday as a 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen enabled them to overhaul Bayern Munich at the top of the table on goal difference.

Leverkusen took the lead on 29 minutes as prolific Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok curled a long-distance free-kick past the despairing dive of Tim Wiese in the Bremen goal, for his fourth league goal in as many games.

But the hosts equalised five minutes later after a goalkeeping clanger from Rene Adler. The 25-year-old failed to collect a harmless free-kick and the ball slipped through his legs, allowing Bremen striker Claudio Pizarro to poke home.

However, Bayern Munich old-boy Toni Kroos put Leverkusen back in front with an unstoppable 30-metre piledriver after 57 minutes.

And Leverkusen stayed in front until an injury-time header from German international striker Per Mertesacker broke their hearts.

Nevertheless, Leverkusen stayed top by one goal and to add insult to injury, it was Bayern's own record that they beat.

Ironically, Jupp Heynckes' men overtook the previous mark set by the Bayern side of 1988-89, coached by Heynckes himself.

For their part, Bayern saw a 13-game winning streak in all competitions come to a disappointing end with a 1-1 draw away at lowly local rivals Nuremberg.

Coach Louis van Gaal insisted after the game that he was interested only in trophies, not records, as his team fell just short of equalling a Bundesliga record of 10 consecutive league wins.

In Sunday's other late game, third-placed Schalke slipped further behind the leaders, with a 2-1 away loss to last season's champions Wolfsburg.

Wolfsburg were livid when they had a strike disallowed for offside in the very first minute and replays showed the goal should have stood.

The home team's sense of injustice was increased when German striker Kevin Kuranyi rose above the Wolfsburg defence to head home a corner after half an hour.

However, justice was restored in the 71th minute as Brazilian striker Grafite sent a powerful header beyond the reach of Manuel Neuer.

And the 30-year-old Grafite sealed a shock win for Wolfsburg with a delicate chip six minutes later.

The loss leaves Schalke four points behind the top two.

However, fourth-placed Hamburg, minus injured star signing Ruud van Nistelrooy, failed to take advantage, playing out a disappointing 0-0 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.

At the other end of the table, Hertha Berlin, the Bundesliga's bottom club, finally gave their fans something to cheer about as a double from Brazilian midfielder Cicero handed them a 3-0 win Sunday over fellow strugglers Freiburg.

The precious three points allowed Berlin's only top-flight club to close the gap at the bottom to two points as the battle to avoid relegation hotted up.

With 33 points still up for grabs, only four points separate four clubs - Hertha, Nuremberg, Hanover and Freiburg.

The bottom two are relegated automatically, while the third-from-bottom club must endure the agony of a survival play-off with the third-placed team in the second division.

Meanwhile, in by far and away the best game of the weekend, Stuttgart warmed up for Tuesday's Champions League visit of Barcelona with a 5-1 drubbing of Cologne, with German striker Cacau the star, hitting four.

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Record-breaking Leverkusen pip Bayern to top spot