Bayer Leverkusen won 3-1 at Borussia Moenchengladbach with two goals from Gonzalo Castro on Sunday to move into second place in the Bundesliga and cut Borussia Dortmund’s lead at the top to 11 points.
Leverkusen’s victory also marked the return to action of Germany captain Michael Ballack as a second-half substitute, after missing four months with a shinbone injury.
“It was a fantastic feeling to be on the pitch again,” the 34-year-old Ballack told reporters. “It was good to come on at 2-0 because it makes it easier for a substitute.”
The visitors looked to be cruising to an easy win when they struck in the 37th minute with Michal Kadlec’s curling free-kick, before unmarked Gonzalo Castro doubled their lead with a close-range header just before halftime.
’Gladbach, who twice hit the crossbar, struck back with arguably the best goal of the weekend through Austrian Martin Stranzl, who picked up the ball on the right and released an unstoppable shot over goalkeeper Rene Adler just past the hour, but with the hosts, anchored in last place, out in full force in search of an equalizer, Castro grabbed his second goal of the evening, rounding off a quick break with a chip in the 73rd minute.
In the other match on Sunday, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim grabbed a last-minute equalizer through David Alaba to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to relegation-threatened St Pauli, who thought they had won it when former Germany international Gerald Asamoah gave them a 2-1 lead in the 82nd minute.