Borussia Dortmund maintained a two-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a 1-0 win at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday as title rivals Bayern Munich beat Kaiserslautern 2-0 to keep pace.
Dortmund scored on the stroke of halftime when Japan international Shinji Kagawa shook off two defenders with a fine solo run and slotted the ball home with a clever left-foot shot from a tight angle.
The champions, who have won all four of their Bundesliga games this year without injured playmaker Mario Goetze, are now unbeaten in 15 straight league games since early September last year.
The result lifted Dortmund to 46 points from 21 games, still two ahead of Bayern, with Leverkusen stuck in sixth place on 31 and looking lackluster ahead of their Champions League round of 16 first leg against Barcelona on Tuesday.
Surprise package Borussia Moenchengladbach moved above visitors Schalke 04 into third on 43 points after taking them apart in a 3-0 win with Marco Reus, Mike Hanke and Juan Arango on target before the break. Schalke are fourth with 41.
Bundesliga top scorer Mario Gomez headed Bayern into a sixth minute lead with his 18th league goal of the season and Thomas Mueller added a second with another powerful header on the half-hour.
The Bavarians, who also reached the German Cup semi--finals in midweek and are also still in the Champions league, seem to have recovered from an erratic start to the year following one win in their previous three games.
Mid-table VfB Stuttgart crushed 10-man Hertha Berlin 5-0 with four goals in a 17 minute spell in the first half to put visiting coach Michael Skibbe under more pressure after his team’s fifth defeat in his five games in charge.
The Berlin side are 15th, two places and three points above the automatic relegation spots.
Hoffenheim’s new coach Markus Babbel, sacked by Hertha in December, thought he would celebrate a winning debut until Werder Bremen’s Marko Arnautovic snatched a 90th-minute goal to earn his side a 1-1 draw.
Hanover 96 also had to wait until the end to spoil Mainz 05’s afternoon with Artur Sobiech equalizing in the 89th minute to secure a 1-1 draw.