BUNDES LIGA: Hamburg close the gap on leaders Bayern

AFP , BERLIN

Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 18

Hamburg defender Bastian Reinhardt struck nine minutes from time to seal a 2-1 win over Hertha Berlin and close the gap behind dominant Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich to just two points on Saturday.

German giants Bayern were six points clear at the top of the table in the middle of last month, but Reinhardt's late header at the HSH Nordbank Arena sealed Hamburg's win over Hertha to put his side within striking distance.

The home side had taken the lead when Peruvian striker Jose Paolo Guerrero's shot hit the back of the net after only four minutes, but Berlin midfielder Patrick Ebert hit back for the visitors on the hour before Reinhardt's winner.

"We were very good in the first half and thought we had the game in the bag," Hamburg coach Huub Stevens said. "Unfortunately, we didn't and then we made life tough for ourselves, but the team fought well to secure the points and we deserve the position we are in."

Hamburg's run of nine wins in their last 10 games, including six Bundesliga wins, has moved them into second and they are genuine title contenders following Bayern Munich's 0-0 draw at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Despite star performers Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni and Franck Ribery missing a string of chances, Bayern just could not break down Frankfurt's dogmatic defense.

"It is always like that when an opponent raises their game against us," Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. "We didn't take our chances in front of goal and after Luca Toni missed some early chances, Frankfurt grew in confidence."

Werder Bremen are third in the table after Portuguese attacker Hugo Almeida poached a 39th minute goal at home to Hansa Rostock.

And defending champions VfB Stuttgart claimed their second consecutive Bundesliga win over Nuremburg as Germany's player of the year Mario Gomez showed his class with a superb winning goal on 25 minutes.

After controlling a long-ball from midfield, Gomez beat two defenders to slide his shot past Nuremberg's Czech goalkeeper Jaromir Blazek for a win that puts Stuttgart 11th.

"That was a very close game," Stuttgart coach Armin Veh said. "And it was decided by one individual performance. We had some luck in the first half and in the second-half we attacked from deep, but they counter-attacked well."

"We missed our chances to go 2-0 up, but you have to be happy with the win," he said.

Hanover are up to fourth in the table after Hungarian midfielder Szabolcs Huszti converted a 55th minute penalty at home to Borussia Dortmund and defender Christian Schulz grabbed a second goal before Dortmund grabbed a late consolation.

Bayer Leverkusen are sixth and had no problems in their 4-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld, who are plummeting towards the relegation zone.

Greek striker Theofanis Gekas struck twice in five first-half minutes after his forward partner Sergej Barbarez gave Bayer an early lead before adding a second goal 10 minutes from time with a simple tap in.

There was a shock on Friday night as Bundesliga bottom side Energie Cottbus picked up their first win of the season when they surprised seventh-placed Schalke 04 1-0.