Schalke 04 striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar could not have dreamed of a better comeback after five months out when he scored the opening goal in his side’s 3-0 victory at Hamburg SV on Sunday.
The Dutchman, who last played on Aug. 17 against VfL Wolfsburg when he suffered torn knee ligaments, continued his prolific scoring run against Hamburg with his 10th goal in seven games against the northern club.
Schalke, who moved up to fifth place on 31 points as the league resumed after the winter break, looked hungrier at the start and Huntelaar could have put them ahead after 23 minutes, but for a last-gasp challenge by defender Heiko Westermann.
The 30-year-old did better in the 34th, connecting with a fine Jefferson Farfan cross to nod past ‘keeper Jaroslav Drobny.
Hamburg, whose striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga and fullback Zhin Gi Lam limped off injured, were livelier after the break, but a defensive blunder between Marcell Jansen and Drobny allowed Farfan to sprint through and slot into an empty goal in the 53rd minute.
Max Meyer knocked the hosts out with a quickfire third goal three minutes later after yet another fine run down the wing by Farfan, triggering a mass exodus by the home fans.
Hamburg, the only club to have played every season in the top division since the Bundesliga’s creation in 1963, are in the relegation playoff spot on 16 points.
“We dominated and we really wanted to win here”, said Huntelaar, who has now scored 10 goals in seven games against Hamburg. “Our goal is to secure fourth place to qualify for the Champions Leage and we really enjoyed our football today.”
Bert van Marwijk’s Hamburg drop back into the bottom three.
Having taken fifth place from VfL Wolfsburg, Schalke — who face Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League next month — are to host Wolves on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Eintracht Braunschweig remain bottom of the table after playing out a goalless draw at mid-table Werder Bremen earlier on Sunday.
At the other end of the table, Bayern Munich can go 13 points clear at the top with a win in a rearranged fixture at VfB Stuttgart tomorrow.
After their three closest challengers collected just one point between them over the weekend, a 24th German league title is now Bayern’s to lose.
Results played into Bayern’s hands as second-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen suffered their third-straight defeat, losing 3-2 at SC Freiburg.
Sami Hyypia’s side were stunned as the hosts twice came from behind before midfielder Felix Klaus hit the dramatic 90th-minute winner.
The result saw Freiburg climb out of the bottom three after they canceled out goals by Bayer midfielders Lars Bender and Simon Rolfes.
Borussia picked up their first point at home after three consecutive defeats in front of their own fans, but have taken just five points from their last seven league games. They are now 14 points behind Bayern, while sixth-placed Wolfsburg also lost ground as they suffered a 3-1 defeat at home to near neighbors Hannover 96.
The result put a dampener on Kevin de Bruyne’s debut after the Belgium midfielder became Wolfsburg’s record signing last weekend when he moved from Chelsea.
Nuremberg celebrated a milestone as they became the last team in a major European league to pick up their first win of the season with a 4-0 victory over TSG1899 Hoffenheim.
Eintracht Frankfurt picked up their first home win of the season with a shock 1-0 victory against seventh-placed Hertha BSC.
FSV Mainz 05 are up to eighth after a 2-1 win at VfB Stuttgart as Japan striker Shinji Okazaki scored for the visitors against his former club.
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