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Leverkusen go back into Champions League spots Augsburg’s suffer setback

BERLIN, April 13, (AFP): Bayer Leverkusen forced their way back into the Champions League places with Sunday’s 2-1 win at home to Hertha Berlin in their first Bundesliga match since sacking Sami Hyypia. The former Liverpool captain, who took charge as head coach in August, was sacked after his side’s defeat at Hamburg saw them slip out of the top four — the Champions League places — and was replaced by his former assistant, Sascha Lewandowski. “We’re delighted, our last home win was a while ago,” said Lewandowski whose side last enjoyed a home win in February. “I know the team and the situation, so I am up to speed pretty fast. We still have some rebuilding to do, no question about that, there is still a lot of insecurity there. “When you concede a goal, a thousand thoughts race through your mind.”

Leverkusen went ahead after just 40 seconds when striker Stefan Kiessling headed home and doubled their lead on 24 minutes as 17-year-old Julian Brandt deftly chipped home his second goal in as many matches. Sandro Wagner headed Berlin back into contention just before the break, but Leverkusen held on for the points which sees them regain fourth place from VfL Wolfsburg, who had romped to a 4-1 win over Nuremberg 24 hours earlier. Augsburg’s hopes of claiming a Europa League place suffered a set-back when they went down 2-0 at Hoffenheim which left them seven points from the top six. On Saturday, German champions Bayern Munich suffered their second successive league defeat as they were beaten 3-0 at home by Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena.

Goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus and Jonas Hofmann condemned ten-man Bayern to their first Bundesliga loss in Munich since October 2012 and their heaviest since September 2008. The European champions have failed to win any of the three league matches they have played since wrapping up the German title last month and this was the first time since November 2011 they have suffered back-to-back league defeats. The win means second-placed Dortmund move three points clear of rivals Schalke 04, who are third, and means they are now all but certain of returning to the Champions League next season. Dortmund gained revenge for a 3-0 defeat in November’s reverse fixture as they got the ideal boost ahead of Tuesday’s German Cup semifinal against Wolfsburg. In the other tie, Bayern host second-division Kaiserslautern in Munich 24 hours later for a place in the May 17 final.

Borussia Moenchengladbach dropped to sixth as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to relegation-threatened VfB Stuttgart. Daniel Didavi scored early on for Stuttgart but Juan Arango’s header with a minute remaining salvaged a point for Moenchengladbach. Stuttgart are now one point clear of third-from-bottom Hamburg, who lost 2-1 at Hanover 96. Hamburg coach Mirko Slomka returned to Hanover for the first time since his sacking in December but his new team fell behind when Lars Stindl headed home on nine minutes. Hamburg levelled through a Hakan Calanoglou free-kick but Didier Ya Konan scrambled home with four minutes left to help Hanover pull five points clear of the relegation zone. In the other meeting of two relegation candidates, Freiburg defeated bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig 2-0, while Europa League hopefuls Mainz swept aside mid-table Werder Bremen 3-0.

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