Hamburg beat ten-man Schalke to cut Bayern lead
FRANKFURT, April 2 (Reuters) - Hamburg SV cut Bayern Munich's lead in the Bundesliga to seven points with a 2-0 win at 10-man Schalke on Sunday.
Schalke lost Brazilian full-back Rafinha to a red card in the 28th minute and fell behind 12 minutes after the break when a Rafael van der Vaart free kick evaded everyone and crept in.
Ailton added the second with a cool finish 10 minutes from time to secure a win that takes Hamburg back up to second place.
Bayern, surprisingly held to a 2-2 draw at home by bottom club Cologne on Saturday, have 66 points from 28 games.
Their seven-point lead looks comfortable enough with six games to play but the Bavarians have a difficult game away to Werder Bremen next weekend and may just be starting to look nervously over their shoulders.
Werder are in third place on 56 points after winning 1-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
They now have a four-point advantage over Schalke 04 in the race for third place and the final Champions League slot.
Hamburg were by far the better side in the opening quarter and might easily have been two goals ahead before the sending-off of Rafinha.
Sergej Barbarez set Benjamin Lauth through on goal in the third minute only for the German striker to balloon his shot over the bar.
With 20 minutes gone, Barbarez was himself the guilty party, shooting weekly at the keeper after being presented with an easy chance from a similar position.
Lincoln set up Kevin Kuranyi to head just over the bar as Schalke attacked in the 25th minute and a few seconds later the Brazilian playmaker smacked a shot against the bar.
Rafinha then got himself sent off in a row over a free kick and Schalke's ambition waned.
The opening goal was a little fortunate, as Mladen Krstajic inexplicably failed to clear Van der Vaart's hopeful free kick, but the second featured a classy finish from Brazilian striker Ailton after a neat pass from Lauth.
'It was a huge step towards the Champions League,' said Hamburg coach Thomas Doll. 'We did what we set out to do.'