Tue, Mar 22, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Ballack inspires Leverkusen win

AFP, BERLIN

A Michael Ballack-inspired Bayer Leverkusen beat Schalke 04 2-0 on Sunday to cut Borussia Dortmund’s lead at the top of the Bundesliga to seven points.

Dortmund were held to a draw at home by FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday, tightening things up at the top of the table with seven matches to go, but Borussia remain on course for their first German title since 2002.

First-half goals by Schalke’s Germany defender Christoph Metzelder, who headed into his own net after 27 minutes, and Leverkusen’s Eren Derdiyok sealed the win that keeps Bayer second.

Ballack, 34, making only his 10th league appearance of the season after back-to-back injuries, was left out of the Germany squad named on Friday to face Kazakhstan and Australia, but the former Germany captain bolstered Leverkusen.

“Michael Ballack put in an encouraging display, he ran very strongly and looked good,” coach Jupp Heynckes said.

Ballack played the full 90 minutes and was heavily involved in the build-up for Derdiyok’s goal after linking with Germany teammate Simon Rolfes and he is showing glimpses of the form that saw him win 98 caps for his country.

Leverkusen fans called Ballack over to celebrate with them and lead their victory chants through a loudspeaker — as is traditional in the Bundesliga after a big win — an honor for the former Chelsea star.

“The fans called him over to get on the speaker,” Leverkusen captain Rolfes said. “This has all been good.”

The defeat leaves Schalke, who drew Italy’s Inter in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Friday, 10th in the league.

VfL Wolfsburg welcomed back coach Felix Magath, who was sacked by Schalke on Wednesday, with a 1-1 draw over strugglers VfB Stuttgart, as defender Georg Niedermeier scored a crucial equalizer for the hosts.

Brazil striker Grafite put his side ahead in the 40th minute — his first goal since November — before Niedermeier scored in the 94th minute.

Magath, 57, coached Wolfsburg to the 2009 German league title and re-joined them again on Friday.

The draw leaves his team in the relegation zone, while 2007 Bundesliga champions Stuttgart are just above the bottom three in 15th.

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