Bayer 04 Leverkusen reclaimed second place in the Bundesliga from defending champions Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, despite being held to a goalless draw at gritty SC Freiburg.
Leverkusen’s draw means league leaders Bayern Munich, who were at VfB Stuttgart yesterday, can extend their lead to 11 points if they earn their 15th win in 19 league games this season.
Unbeaten in their previous five games, Freiburg, eighth in the league, outplayed Leverkusen on occasion, backed up by the stats as they finished with more possession, shots on goal and corners, but failed to break the deadlock.
Germany striker Stefan Kiessling, the league’s top scorer with 13 goals, and midfielder Andre Schuerrle both went close, while at the other end Freiburg’s Karim Guede had a chance in the dying stages after coming off the bench.
Freiburg were missing key players in defenders Mensur Mujdza (back) and Immanuel Hoehn (infection), plus midfielder Cedrick Makiadi (at the Africa Cup of Nations with Congo) and forward Sebastian Freis (shoulder injury).
Leverkusen host Borussia Dortmund, who beat Nuremberg 3-0 on Friday, next Sunday in a mouth-watering clash, with Schuerrle saying: “We’re looking forward to Dortmund, that will be a great game.”
Earlier, fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt stayed in the chasing pack with a 2-1 home win over TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
A deft chip from Japan winger Takashi Inui on 35 minutes allowed Frankfurt midfielder Martin Lanig to ghost in and beat Hoffenheim’s Germany goalkeeper Tim Wiese for the first goal.
Hoffenheim equalized through teenage striker Kevin Volland on 65 minutes.
Eintracht regained the lead just two minutes later through right-winger Stefan Aigner, but despite the three points, Frankfurt, who were promoted at the end of last season, remain 12 points behind Bayern.
The defeat drops Hoffenheim into the automatic relegation places, in second-bottom spot.
With speculation rife over whether Germany midfielder Lewis Holtby will join Tottenham Hotspur before this month’s transfer window closes, his Schalke 04 side were held to a goalless draw at relegation-candidates Augsburg.
Schalke have won just once in eight games and drop to sixth, while the hosts moved up to 16th.
FSV Mainz 05 moved up to fifth with a workmanlike 3-0 win at bottom side SpVgg Greuther Fuerth as former Real Madrid striker Adam Szalai scored twice.
Borussia Moenchengladbach enjoyed a 2-1 win at home to Fortuna Duesseldorf to claim seventh place.
Despite having defender Sebastien Pocognoli sent off for a dangerous foul just 34 minutes into his Bundesliga debut after joining from Standard Liege last week, 10-man Hanover 96 claimed a 2-1 victory over VfL Wolfsburg.