Hamburger SV beats Leverkusen 1-0 in Bundesliga
BERLIN: Rafael van der Vaart's first-half penalty earned Hamburger SV a bad-tempered 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen to provisionally escape the Bundesliga's relegation zone on Saturday.
The Dutchman converted from the spot in the 26th minute, after Omer Toprak was penalized for a push on Marcell Jansen in the area.
Karim Bellarabi came agonizingly close to equalizing deep in injury time when he struck the right post after surging through the Hamburg defense.
Six Hamburg and three Leverkusen players were booked in a hard-fought game punctuated by strong tackles and rising tempers. Both coaches had to be restrained as players, substitutes and coaching staff became embroiled at the end of the first half.
"I never experienced such an intensive and aggressive 45 minutes," Hamburg defender Heiko Westermann said. "The grass was on fire."
Hamburg moved two points clear of Borussia Dortmund, which occupied the relegation playoff place ahead of its visit to leader Bayern Munich later Saturday.
Wolfsburg moved provisionally second with a 4-0 rout at Stuttgart, Werder Bremen was level with Dortmund after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Mainz, and Hannover beat Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 thanks to the unfortunate Alexander Madlung's own goal in the 88th minute.
In Stuttgart, Ivan Perisic capitalized on a botched clearance to shoot inside the far post in the 15th, Robin Knoche made it 2-0 with a header from Kevin de Bruyne's free kick before the break, and de Bruyne effectively sealed the result in the 48th.
Referee Bastian Dankert had to go off injured with just over 15 minutes to go, before de Bruyne set up Perisic to his second in the 88th.
"We saw a brilliant football game," Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking said. "A fair score would have been 8-5. You could complain about not talking chances, but that would be whining at the highest level."
Mainz got off to a great start when Shinji Okazaki eluded two defenders and shot inside the left post in the third minute. The Japan striker almost grabbed a second two minutes later only to be denied by a great reflex save from Raphael Wolf.
But Franco di Santo equalized before the break, when he headed home the rebound from his penalty after Loris Karius saved his initial effort, and the Argentine displayed outstanding control and technique to lift the ball over Karius in the 49th.
Bremen came close to claiming a third when Clemens Fritz hit the post.
It was Bremen's first win of the season at the 10th attempt in Viktor Skripnik's first league game as coach. His predecessor, Robin Dutt, was sacked with the side bottom last Saturday.
"I'm thrilled for my guys," said Skripnik, who won the double as a player with Bremen in 2004. "After the first 20 minutes you mightn't have imagined that we'd win. We went to our limit."