France international Franck Ribery fired German giants Bayern Munich to the top of the Bundesliga on Sunday for the first time since winning the title in 2008, beating Hamburg 1-0.
Following a return to form under Dutch coach Louis van Gaal, Bayern caught up Bayer Leverkusen at the top of the table a month ago but since then, the two rivals have been neck-and-neck, with Bayern second on goal difference.
But Leverkusen blinked first this weekend, with their record-setting 24th game unbeaten counting for little as an heroic Cologne side kept them to a goalless draw on Saturday.
On Sunday, Bayern had the more chances as former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben and midfielders Thomas Mueller and Bastian Schweinsteiger picked holes in the Hamburg defence to pile on the pressure.
It took until the 78th minute for Bayern to find the back of the net, however, with Ribery, in bright yellow boots, firing a bullet of a shot past Ivorian defender Guy Demel to beat Wolfgang Hesl.
In Sunday’s other game, Hanover suffered their ninth straight defeat as defending Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg, fresh from their passage into the last 16 of the Europa League last week, won 1-0.
In a game full of chances for both sides, it was Bosnian midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic who finally made the breakthrough for the visitors on 77 minutes, his 10th goal of the season.
Hanover have now gone 13 games without a win, and now find themselves last but one in the table with only the hapless Hertha Berlin, one of the stars of last season, below them.
Stuttgart maintained their fine recent good run under coach Christian Gross by coming from behind to beat Eintracht Frankfurt at home 2-1, lifting them up to eighth in the table.
Stuttgart’s Brazilian-born striker Cacau continued the form that saw him picked for the squad for Germany’s World Cup warm-up friendly against Argentina on Wednesday, scoring twice in four minutes just before the break.
The 29-year-old, who has played four times for Germany, has now scored seven goals in the last three games, including opening the scoring in Stuttgart’s recent Champions League last-16 home clash with Barcelona that ended 1-1.
Werder Bremen meanwhile capped a fine week by winning 2-1 at 10-man Mainz on Saturday to move to within a point of the European qualifying positions, with Germany midfielder Tim Borowski and substitute Sebastian Broedl the scorers.
Bremen booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League with a 4-1 win at home to Dutch side FC Twente on Thursday.
Bottom club Hertha Berlin’s bid to pull away from the foot of the table received a blow when they were beaten 2-0 at home by Hoffenheim.
Borussia Moenchengladbach drew 1-1 at home to Freiburg, while Nuremberg climbed one place to third-bottom after securing a goalless draw at Bochum.