Leverkusen, Stuttgart claim vital Bundesliga wins
BERLIN (AP) — Bayer Leverkusen reclaimed fourth place in the Bundesliga with a 4-1 with at relegation-threatened Nuremberg and Stuttgart eased its relegation fears with a 3-1 win over Schalke on Sunday.
In Nuremberg, Emir Spahic opened the scoring with Leverkusen’s first shot on target in the 16th, only for Marvin Plattenhardt to equalize eight minutes later with a direct free kick from 25 meters (yards).
Omer Toprak set up Sebastian Boenisch for Leverkusen’s second goal in the 48th and Heung-min Son ran the length of the pitch after a Nuremberg corner for Spahic to seal the win with 10 minutes remaining.
“He never scored a goal in top-flight football before so congratulations to him,” Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller said.
There was still time for Roberto Hilbert to add another in the 87th, as Leverkusen reclaimed the last Champions League qualification spot from Wolfsburg, which had provisionally gone ahead on Saturday.
“Borussia Dortmund next week will be another caliber,” Voeller said after the side’s second consecutive win under interim coach Sascha Lewandowski. “Then we’ll see if we’ve really turned the corner.”
The result left Nuremberg second from bottom, one point above Eintracht Braunschweig, with three games to play. The bottom two are automatically relegated.
“We simply don’t have the quality at the moment to win matches like this,” Nuremberg goalkeeper Raphael Schaefer said after his side’s eighth defeat from nine games. “In the end we didn’t even believe in ourselves anymore.”
Martin Harnik scored twice for Stuttgart to move four points clear of Hamburger SV in the relegation play-off place.
“We took a step today but there are still steps to be taken,” said Stuttgart coach Huub Stevens, who previously had two stints in charge at Schalke.
Harnik opened the scoring with a header from Daniel Didavi’s well-delivered free kick in the 23rd.
Cacau should have made it 2-0 in the 37th but he was unable to direct Ibrahima Traore’s cross on target with the goal at his mercy. But he did score in the 54th, with a header inside the far post following another good cross from Traore.
Five minutes later, Gotoku Sakai breezed past Kaan Ayhan to set up Harnik for Stuttgart’s third.
Adam Szalai pulled back what proved to a consolation in the 69th.