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Tennis balls disrupt Bundesliga as Bayer Leverkusen moves eight points clear at top

Bayer Leverkusen celebrates Bayer Leverkusen celebrates - The Canadian Press

BERLIN (AP) — Tennis balls rained on the Bundesliga as Bayer Leverkusen consolidated top spot by beating Heidenheim 2-1 on Saturday.

Jeremie Frimpong and Amine Adli scored for Xabi Alonso’s team to move eight points clear of Bayern Munich before the defending champion’s match at Bochum on Sunday.

Leverkusen also matched the German record of 32 games without defeat across all competitions. Only Bayern achieved the feat before. Leverkusen was in the relegation zone when Alonso took charge in October 2022.

None of Saturday’s games escaped the fans’ wrath at the German soccer league for its controversial plan to sell a stake in the Bundesliga’s media rights income to an outside investor.

Supporters threw tennis balls onto the field across four of the afternoon’s five games, forcing interruptions and delays. The first half of Stuttgart’s game at Darmstadt took 70 minutes to complete instead of the usual 45 plus stoppage time.

In Heidenheim, both sets of fans used whistles to drown out the referee’s whistle on the field, while displaying giant banners decrying the soccer league’s planned new investor deal.

In the second division earlier, two remote-controlled vehicles carrying smoke bombs caused a brief delay to Hamburger SV’s game at Rostock, which was delayed again later when tennis balls were thrown on the field.

The protests follow similar actions during Friday's match and continue the disruptions that also plagued last weekend's games.


Borussia Dortmund was held by Wolfsburg to 1-1 for a result that suited neither team.

The visitors went ahead early when Koen Casteel’s effort to clear Marco Reus’ cross rebounded in off Niclas Füllkrug’s shin.

Wolfsburg substitute Yannick Gerhardt equalized in the 64th to earn them a point, enough it seemed for coach Niko Kovač to keep his job.

“You see that they want to play football,” Wolfsburg sporting director Marcel Schäfer said. “The team is alive.”

Dortmund remained fourth but Leipzig closed the gap to just a point.

Dortmund was without Sébastien Haller, who was given a hero’s reception on Thursday upon his return from helping Ivory Coast win the Africa Cup of Nations. The club said on Friday that Haller returned with a re-occurrence of the ankle injury that kept him out of Ivory Coast’s opening games and he will remain out for “several weeks.”


American midfielder Brenden Aaronson scored his first Bundesliga goal to fire Union Berlin to a 1-0 win at Hoffenheim that lifted the capital club to 12th and eight points above the relegation zone.

Yorbe Vertessen set up fellow substitute Aaronson in the 84th.

The match was plagued by lengthy delays. Any time referee Robert Hartmann tried resuming the match, the tennis ball-throwing resumed, too. Some 12 minutes of stoppage time was added to the first half when the game resumed again – enough for both teams to have a player sent off.


Stuttgart forward Serhou Guirassy scored in his first start since helping Guinea reach the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup. His 18th goal in 16 Bundesliga appearances for Stuttgart helped the team consolidate third place with a bad-tempered 2-1 win at Darmstadt.

Also, struggling Mainz defeated Augsburg 1-0 in coach Bo Henriksen ’s debut. Henriksen is Mainz’s third coach of the season and the second Bo, after it started with Danish compatriot Bo Svensson.


Goals in each half from Xavi Simons and Loïs Openda helped Leipzig defeat Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-0.

The game was overshadowed by the deaths of a Leipzig fan in the stadium and a Gladbach supporter who was killed in a traffic accident on their way to the match. Both sets of fans curtailed their support. The Leipzig fans turned on the torches on their smartphones for the final minutes.


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