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Leverkusen tops Hoffenheim; Freiburg blanks Stuttgart

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Associated Press
11/25/2012 1:54:24 PM
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BERLIN -- Hoffenheim's worst start to a Bundesliga season continued Sunday in a 2-1 loss at home to Bayer Leverkusen, increasing the pressure on coach Markus Babbel.

"I know what I'm doing, the manner of my work. We're going to keep working on it," Babbel said. "The quality is there, but it's another thing to produce it on the pitch."

The visitors took the lead in the 15th minute, when Hoffenheim's defenders failed to clear the ball. Three Leverkusen players headed the ball on before Lars Bender finally poked it past Koen Casteels.

It became 2-0 in the 38th, when Daniel Carvajal cut past a Hoffenheim defender, played a one-two with Andre Schuerrle, rounded the goalkeeper and scored his first Leverkusen goal from a tight angle.

"Perhaps we were too confident when it was 2-0. In the end we were lucky to win," Bender said.

Hoffenheim improved drastically after the break and deservedly pulled one back in the 59th when Fabian Johnson's shot took a deflection past the helpless Bernd Leno.

Schuerrle then struck the crossbar with a free kick in the 66th, before another from Gonzalo Castro landed on the roof of Casteels' net.

Halftime substitute Schipplock should have equalized in the 74th when he fired over with only the goalkeeper to beat after Roberto Firmino set him up.

"The team never gave up, never let the heads drop. The chances were there. Unfortunately we couldn't use them," Babbel said.

Hoffenheim occupies the relegation play-off place after its seventh loss in 13 games, while Leverkusen consolidated fifth.

Augsburg squandered the lead against Borussia Moenchengladbach in a 1-1 draw that leaves it bottom.

Sascha Moelders opened the scoring with a header over Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the fifth, and he ended the first half by striking the post.

"If that had gone in it would have decided the game," said Augsburg general manager Juergen Rollmann. "If, if, if. If the cat were a dog, then it would have to bark."

The home side was provisionally off the bottom, but Patrick Herrmann equalized with five minutes remaining, seconds after Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl took the unusual step of bringing on a forward for a defender.

Earlier Sunday, Freiburg beat local rival Stuttgart 3-0 on Sunday to rise to sixth.

Jan Rosenthal got the home side off to a great start in the 22nd minute, when he fired the ball through Stuttgart defender William Kvist's legs and inside the left post.

Pavel Krmas' scored his first goal of the season in the 67th, when Sven Ulreich was hindered in his attempt to clear, allowing the Czech defender to scoop the rebound into the unguarded net.

Max Kruse sealed the derby win six minutes later, running onto Daniel Caligiuri's hopeful header before dispatching the ball past Ulreich.

"We had chances at the start but we didn't use them. Freiburg used their chances," Stuttgart defender Serdar Tasci said.

Stuttgart, which was coming off a 5-1 win at Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League, hit the post through Zdravko Kuzmanovic a minute before Rosenthal scored.

"It shouldn't be an excuse," said Ulreich, referring to Thursday's Europa League game. "We wanted the three points, but we just didn't play our game."

Freiburg also hit the post, late in the match, which ended with yellow cards being shown to both sides as tempers frayed.

On Saturday, Bayern Munich thrashed Hannover 5-0 to stay nine points clear of defending champion Borussia Dortmund, which took advantage of Schalke's 1-1 with Eintracht Frankfurt to move second with a 2-1 win at Mainz.

Bayer Leverkusen celebrates (Photo: Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)
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