Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Bayern fire Magath and welcome back Ottmar Hitzfeld

AP , FRANKFURT, GERMANY

Referee Helmut Fleischer, left, shouts at Dortmund's Alexander Frei, center, while Mainz's Leon Andreasen looks on during the German first division soccer match between Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund at the Bruchweg stadium in Mainz, Germany, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich fired coach Felix Magath on Wednesday and brought back his predecessor Ottmar Hitzfeld, who guided the club to the Champions League title in 2001.

"We regret this step. Felix Magath did a very good job in the last two and a half years in Bayern, with great success, especially the two doubles," club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement. "But we, as those responsible for the club, had to react to the current developments. Concern about qualifying for next season's Champions League led us to reach today's decision."

Magath won the Bundesliga championship and the German Cup with Bayern in his first two seasons with Germany's biggest club.

But his third season has been troubled. The team lost at Borussia Dortmund 3-2 at the start of the second half of the season on Friday and dropped to fourth place in the standings after drawing 0-0 with lowly Bochum at home on Tuesday.

Only the two Bundesliga teams earn automatic berths in the lucrative Champions League, with the third going into qualifying.

"The Champions League is very important for our image and for our finances. We felt that with Ottmar Hitzfeld in charge until the end of the season we can achieve this goal," Rummenigge said.

Bayern are five points behind leaders Werder Bremen and Schalke and after drawing with Bochum, Magath said the title was all but gone. The team have already lost five games this season and have been eliminated from the German Cup.

"Of course this is not a pleasant situation," Magath said. "I had two and a half beautiful and successful years in Bayern, of which I can be proud. But I always knew that this was not forever."

This season, Bayern appeared unable to compensate for the departure of Germany captain Michael Ballack to Chelsea, then lost another midfielder, Sebastian Deisler, who decided to retire during the winter break after a string of injuries.

Under Magath, Bayern reached the knockout stage of the Champions League this season and play Real Madrid next month.

Hitzfeld will return to the club until the end of the season and will bring back his former assistant, Michael Henke, who had a brief and unsuccessful stint as head coach at Kaiserslautern.

Hitzfeld led the club to the Champions League title in 2001. He also won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.

Under Hitzfeld, Bayern won four Bundesliga titles and three German Cups between 1998 and 2004. With 16 titles with different clubs, Hitzfeld is Germany's most successful coach.

Magath was the second Bundesliga coach to go on Wednesday, following the resignation of Jupp Heynckes from Borussia Moenchengladbach. They were followed by Thomas Doll who was fired by Hamburg.

Werder, Schalke win

Werder Bremen and Schalke moved eight points clear of Bayern Munich with victories in the Bundesliga on Wednesday.

Bremen won 2-0 at Bayer Leverkusen, who finished with 10 men, and Schalke beat Alemannia Aachen 2-1 at home.

Both teams, who meet on Sunday, improved to 42 points, with Bremen ahead on goal difference.

Stuttgart beat Arminia Bielefeld on Tuesday to improve to 35 points and move past Bayern (34) into third place.

Bremen and Schalke both took advantage of Bayern's slump with routine victories.

Bremen led in the 15th minute when Miroslav Klose headed in his 10th goal of the season at the far post, and Hugo Almeida fired in a sharp, low left-footed shot in the 78th, after Leverkusen's Gonzalo Castro had been ejected for a foul on Tim Borowski.

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