Kagawa strike keeps Dortmund top

11 February 2012 04:46

Japan winger Shinji Kagawa hit his fourth goal in four games on Saturday to keep Borussia Dortmund top of the German league with a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen, who host Barcelona in three days time.

The 22-year-old Kagawa finally unpicked the packed Leverkusen defence and fired home from a tight angle on the stroke of half-time for what proved to be the winner which keeps Dortmund two points clear of second-placed Bayern Munich.

Having scored twice in the 3-1 home win over Hoffenheim a fortnight ago and in the 4-0 German Cup rout of Holstein Kiel in midweek, Kagawa is in fine form for the German champions and his pace is a constant threat.

Ex-Germany captain Michael Ballack, who has fallen out of favour with Leverkusen, was again over-looked on the bench when coach Robin Dutt opted to bring on 21-year-old midfielder Karim Bellarabi for the last 15 minutes.

Leverkusen defended well throughout, but have their work-cut out to contain holders Barcelona at home in the Round of 16, first-leg, of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Jurgen Klopp-coached Dortmund picked up their 14th win of the season, but Bayern are hard on their heels after their 2-0 win over struggling Kaiserslautern as Germany's Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller both netted.

Munich will be without midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger for the foreseeable future as the Germany star has damaged ankle ligaments, but they had enough firepower in midfield to cope with Kaiserslautern.

Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who has struggled for form recently, started on the bench, but came on for the last half an hour with Bayern to face FC Basel in the knock-out phase of the Champions League on February 22.

Having been knocked out of the German Cup in midweek by Moenchengladbach, who host Schalke on Saturday night, Hertha Berlin's fortunes dipped further as they were hammered 5-0 at VfB Stuttgart who were 4-0 up at the break.

Austria striker Martin Harnik scored twice in the rout while Japan striker Shinji Okazaki scored Stuttgart's third after 32 minutes.

His super strike came less than two minutes after Hertha's Andreas Ottl was shown a red card for a foul on Stuttgart's Hungary midfielder Tamas Hajnal.

Hertha host Dortmund in the Bundesliga next Saturday and will need to improve substantially to avoid another defeat as they lie in 15th place, just above the relegation zone.

Hoffenheim who fired Holger Stanislawski as coach on Thursday and replaced him with ex-Hertha manager Markus Babbel, enjoyed their first win under their new coach with a 1-1 draw at Hertha Berlin.

Only a 90th-minute equaliser from Bremen's Austria striker Marko Arnautovic denied Hoffenheim victory as the Austrian converted a 40-metre pass from Sweden forward Markus Rosenberg.

Mainz were held to a 1-1 draw by Hanover, while on Sunday relegation-contenders Nuremberg and Augsburg clash while Cologne host Hamburg.

Source: AFP