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Bayern Denied Victory by Late Equalizer to Top Bundesliga
    2008-12-14 09:16:03     Xinhua

Related: German Bundesliga Soccer Standings

German champions Bayern Munich were at top of the Bundesliga standings for the first time this season on Saturday, but the celebrations in Munich were muted after a last-gasp equalizer by Stuttgart.

Bayern's visit to Stuttgart for the big southern derby ended 2-2, meaning 1899 Hoffenheim only have to avoid defeat against Schalke 04 on Sunday to claim top spot in the league going into the winter recess.

A 90th-minute goal from Sami Khedira saved Stuttgart's bacon after goals from Tim Borowski in the 48th minute and Luca Toni in the 66th minute had given the visitors the edge. Khedira had put Stuttgart in front in added time in the first half. Bayern's cause was certainly not helped by the 85th-minute sending-off of Massimo Oddo for a bad foul.

A sell-out 55,000 crowd in the Mercedes-Benz-Arena saw an impressive, focused and aggressive display from the hosts in the first half, in stark contrast to a Bayern side who seemed to be badly missing the inspirational presence of Franck Ribery.

Shortly before half time Bayern keeper Michael Rensing pulled off a good save from a 22-meter shot by Thomas Hitzlsperger. Not long after that, however, Rensing was powerless to prevent Khedira heading home from a Jan Simak corner, following a flick-on by Matthieu Delpierre.

Bayern started the second half in a different spirit altogether and three minutes in, a 16-meter shot from Bastian Schweinsteiger was parried by Stuttgart keeper Jens Lehmann only to land at the feet of Tim Borowski, who was able to atone for a thus-far insipid performance by mopping up the rebound. Miroslav Klose was in an offside position but adjudged not to be interfering with play, so the goal stood.

Chances were at a premium after that in what was a very tightly-contested encounter. With just over an hour gone Toni finally escaped his marker Serdar Tasci and slotted home a pass from Borowski.

That looked for a long time as if it would prove to be the winner. But things started to get tight for Bayern with five minutes remaining when Oddo was given a straight red for a martial-arts-style intervention on Christian Traesch.

And they got even tighter when a last-minute corner taken by Cacau was palmed away by Rensing to Khedira, who volleyed home under the bar to earn Stuttgart a point and deny Bayern a victory.

With the draw, Bayern overpassed Hoffenheim to lead the standings, at least for one day before Sunday's battle between Hoffenheim and Schalke 04, the last game before the winter break.

Boasting 34 points and advantageous goals, Hoffenheim merely need a draw to take back the leading place from Bayern.

"We took a 2-1 lead after a very convincing second half, so it's obviously a shame we were pegged back in the last minute," said Bayern coach Juergen Klinsmann after the match.

However, Klinsmann praised the whole team for the pass three months.

"Overall, the team's been first class in the last three months. I'm really enjoying working with these players. They have a break now, and they deserve it," he said.

On Saturday, Hamburg's Croatian goalkeeper Mladen Petric once again was the difference as Hamburger SV climbed into fourth spot thanks to his only goal in the narrow 1-0 victory over Frankfurt, also handing Hamburg their seventh home win in eight games.

Hertha Berlin completed their best-ever first half of a Bundesliga season thanks to 4-0 victory over Karlsruhe. Werder Bremen ended the year on a high note, rounding off a patchy first half-season with a well-deserved 2-1 victory over Wolfsburg.

Leverkusen could only draw with struggling Cottbus 1-1 and dropped from third to fifth in the standings.

In another two games on Saturday, Bochum lost to Koeln 1-2 while Hannover tied Bielefeld 1-1.

 
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