BERLIN: Third-placed Hertha Berlin remain on course for a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2000 despite a surprise 2-0 defeat at mid-table Hamburg on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Pal Dardai’s Hertha are a huge 16 points adrift of second-placed Borussia Dortmund and 21 behind league leaders Bayern Munich, but hold third by a point from Schalke, who they host in Berlin next Friday.
Hertha stumbled to their seventh defeat of the season as Hamburg striker Nicolai Mueller netted two second-half goals to leave his team tenth in the table.
Earlier, 10-man Mainz failed to back up their shock mid-week win at Bayern, but remain in the pack alongside Schalke, Wolfsburg and Borussia Moenchengladbach hunting a Champions League place, after drawing 0-0 with Darmstadt on Sunday.
Having become the only team to win at Bayern’s Allianz Arena stadium this season by pulling off a stunning 2-1 victory on Wednesday, fifth-placed Mainz were frustrated by Darmstadt, who are just above the relegation places.
Hosts Mainz were reduced to 10 men at the Coface Arena when Italian defender Giulio Donati was shown a straight red card on 57 minutes for kicking out at Darmstadt striker Sandro Wagner.
On Saturday, leaders Bayern stayed five points clear of nearest Bundesliga rivals Dortmund after a goalless draw between Germany’s top two sides.
Despite the lack of goals, the game lived up to its billing as the clash of the teams which have dominated the German league this season at Dortmund’s sold-out Signal Iduna Park.
The game’s best chance came on 64 minutes when Arturo Vidal’s shot for Bayern was palmed onto the bar by Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki.
Earlier, Bayer Leverkusen came back from 3-0 down to avoid a fourth straight league defeat in a 3-3 draw at Augsburg.
Augsburg’s South Korea striker Koo Ja-Cheol scored his first hat-trick in Germany’s top flight to put the hosts 3-0 up mid-way through the second half.
But Leverkusen, who play Villarreal in the Europa League last 16, first leg on Thursday, fought back as Karim Bellarabi netted, then Augsburg’s Paul Verhaegh scored an own goal on 80 minutes.
In the dying stages, Augsburg defender Jeffrey Gouweleeuw’s handball allowed Hakan Calhanoglu to convert a 92nd-minute penalty as Gouweleeuw was sent off.
Earlier on Saturday, Wolfsburg warmed up for their Champions League clash at home to Gent on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Moenchengladach.
The win moved Wolfsburg up to seventh ahead of the visit of Gent on Tuesday, with the Germans leading 3-2 from the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s 1-1 draw at home to Ingolstadt proved to be Armin Veh’s last game in charge as he was sacked on Sunday after the club slipped into the relegation places.
Having shocked Leverkusen 4-1 on Wednesday when veteran Claudio Pizarro scored a hat-trick, Werder Bremen pulled further away from the relegation zone with another 4-1 thrashing, this time of bottom side Hanover 96.
The 37-year-old Pizarro claimed his fourth goal in two games, and also provided an assist for Czech international Theodor Gebre Selassie as Werder moved three points clear of the relegation spots.
Stuttgart are up to mid-table after their 5-1 thrashing of second-from-bottom Hoffenheim, who stay five points from safety, as defender Georg Niedermeier netted twice.
Schalke are fourth after their 3-1 win at Cologne thanks to goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Max Meyer and Argentina striker Franco di Santo.