Tue, Nov 27, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Hoffenheim’s worst-ever start continues

AP, BERLIN

SC Freiburg goalkeeper Oliver Baumann, top, punches under pressure from VfB Stuttgart’s Shinji Okazaki in their Bundesliga match in Freiburg, Germany, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim’s worst start to a Bundesliga season continued on Sunday with a 2-1 loss at home to Bayer 04 Leverkusen, increasing the pressure on coach Markus Babbel.

“I know what I’m doing, the manner of my work. We’re going to keep working on it,” Babbel said. “The quality is there, but it’s another thing to produce it on the pitch.”

The visitors took the lead in the 15th minute, when Hoffenheim’s defenders failed to clear the ball. Three Leverkusen players headed the ball on, before Lars Bender finally poked it past Koen Casteels.

It became 2-0 in the 38th minute when Daniel Carvajal cut past a Hoffenheim defender, played a one-two with Andre Schuerrle, rounded the goalkeeper and scored his first Leverkusen goal from a tight angle.

“Perhaps we were too confident when it was 2-0. In the end we were lucky to win,” Bender said.

Hoffenheim improved drastically after the break and deservedly pulled one back in the 59th minute when Fabian Johnson’s shot took a deflection past Bernd Leno.

Schuerrle then struck the crossbar with a free-kick in the 66th minute, before another from Gonzalo Castro landed on the roof of Casteels’ net.

Halftime substitute Sven Schipplock should have equalized in the 74th minute when he fired over with only the goalkeeper to beat after Roberto Firmino set him up.

“The team never gave up, never let their heads drop. The chances were there. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use them,” Babbel said.

Hoffenheim occupy the relegation playoff place after their seventh loss in 13 games, while Leverkusen consolidated their fifth position.

Also on Sunday, Augsburg squandered the lead against Borussia Moenchengladbach in a 1-1 draw that left them bottom.

Sascha Moelders opened the scoring with a header over Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the fifth minute and he ended the first half by striking the post.

“If that had gone in, it would have decided the game,” Augsburg general manager Juergen Rollmann said. “If, if, if. If the cat were a dog, then it would have to bark.”

The home side were provisionally off the bottom, but Patrick Herrmann equalized with five minutes remaining, seconds after Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl took the unusual step of bringing on a forward for a defender.

Earlier on Sunday, SC Freiburg beat local rivals VfB Stuttgart 3-0 to rise to sixth.

Jan Rosenthal got the home side off to a great start in the 22nd minute when he fired the ball through Stuttgart defender William Kvist’s legs and inside the left post.

Pavel Krmas scored his first goal of the season in the 67th minute when Sven Ulreich was hindered in his attempt to clear, allowing the Czech defender to scoop the rebound into the unguarded net.

Max Kruse sealed the derby win six minutes later, running onto Daniel Caligiuri’s hopeful header, before dispatching the ball past Ulreich.

“We had chances at the start, but we didn’t use them. Freiburg used their chances,” Stuttgart defender Serdar Tasci said.

Stuttgart, who were coming off a 5-1 win at Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Europa League, hit the post through Zdravko Kuzmanovic a minute before Rosenthal scored.

“It shouldn’t be an excuse,” said Ulreich, referring to Thursday’s Europa League game. “We wanted the three points, but we just didn’t play our game.”

Freiburg also hit the post late in the match, which ended with yellow cards being shown to both sides as tempers frayed.

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