Schalke hammer Wolves to rejoin title race
Schalke 04 put themselves back in the German league title race on Sunday with a 4-0 hammering of VfL Wolfsburg while leaders and defending champions Borussia Dortmund finished the weekend with a three-point lead.
The Royal Blues bounced back from last Saturday's 3-0 defeat at second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach and go fourth in the table behind 'Gladbach and Bayern Munich, who are third.
Five points now separate the Bundesliga's top four teams.
"I told the team after the game that they do not have to train tomorrow," said delighted Schalke coach Hubb Stevens whose team host Viktoria Plzen in the Europa League on Thursday, then Bayern in Munich in the league on Sunday.
"We played well, the only thing I would be critical of is that we failed to exploit our opportunities. But you could really see how much fun the team was having, as they should do."
Former Spain striker Raul netted after just 10 minutes and then a superb cross from Austria defender Christian Fuchs was converted by Dutch star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on 15 minutes.
Huntelaar was denied his second on 36 minutes when Wolfsburg's Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio saved his penalty, but Schalke grabbed the third just after the break when midfielder Joel Matip fired home.
Huntelaar then joined Bayern's Mario Gomez as the league's joint top scorer when he headed home another Fuchs cross on 72 minutes to leave him with 18 goals in 21 league games.
It was a bitter return for Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath, who was sacked by the Royal Blues in February 2011.
Ex-Germany goalkeeper Timo Hidebrandt made his first Bundesliga appearance for 22 months when he came on for injured Schalke goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall who broke his collarbone in the first-half.
On Saturday, Dortmund earned a 1-0 win at struggling Hertha Berlin while Bayern lost some ground with a goalless draw at bottom side Freiburg.
The draw leaves the bottom three teams -- Kaiserslautern, Augsburg and Freiburg -- all on 18 points. Bayern lag four points behind Dortmund.
The leaders' only goal came when a bullet header from Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski was parried by Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft with winger Kevin Grosskreutz on hand to hit an over-head shot on 66 minutes.
Hertha, who sacked coach Michael Skibbe last Sunday after five straight defeats, remain 15th in the league and Otto Rehhagel, who led Greece to the Euro 2004 title, has been appointed to the vacancy.
Borussia Moenchengladbach took their chance to take second place from Bayern after a 2-1 win at Kaiserslautern.
The win came at a price as midfielder Patrick Herrmann scored Gladbach's first goal after only nine minutes, but was later carried off with a broken collarbone and is expected to be out for the next six weeks.
Werder Bremen, fifth in the league, earned the bragging rights in the north German derby with a 3-1 win at Hamburg.
Bayer Leverkusen, who were beaten 3-1 at home by holders Barcelona in the Champions League in midweek, bounced back to stay sixth with a 4-1 win over Augsburg, who are second from bottom.
Nuremberg pulled themselves up to 12th and out of the relegation mire with a 2-1 win at home to Cologne, who drop to 14th, just two places above the relegation zone.
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