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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 9, 2006

Bundesliga: Hamburg close gap to just four

BERLIN, April 9 (Reuters) - Hamburg SV beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-0 on Sunday to slash Bayern Munich's lead at the top of the Bundesliga to four points.

With five matches remaining, Bayern have 66 points while Hamburg are once again closing the gap fast with 62. Werder Bremen, who routed Bayern 3-0 on Saturday, are third on 59.

Hamburg's Rafael van der Vaart blasted a 34th minute penalty past Kasey Keller after the U.S. goalkeeper tripped Hamburg striker Sergej Barbarez. It was the Dutch midfielder's ninth league goal of the season.

Japan striker Naohiro Takahara came off the bench and made it 2-0 three minutes into stoppage time with his first goal of the season just seconds before the final whistle.

The record crowd of 57,000 then sang "Happy Birthday" for Hamburg coach Thomas Doll, who turned 40 on Sunday.

"Everything's coming together nicely," said Doll, who refused to get caught up in speculation about whether his team could catch Bayern and said Hamburg mainly wanted to secure second place for a direct Champions League qualification.

"We're definitely in a good position to hold on to second place and that's what's important for me," Doll said.

Hamburg defender Bastian Reinhardt was less guarded.

"We're looking towards the top," he said. "But we've got to be patient. We were as close as four points before but then didn't play well."

Champions Bayern, who are chasing their 20th Bundesliga title, had a comfortable nine-point lead eight days ago but that advantage has been trimmed after they earned just one point from their last two matches.

Saturday's defeat by Werder followed a week after a 2-2 home draw against relegation threatened Cologne.

Bayern have also been hit by other problems. Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann picked Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann over Bayern's Oliver Kahn on Friday, a shock for Kahn. Bayern bosses said they struggled to persuade Kahn to play on Saturday.

Kahn has not made any public comment since the announcement.

Commercial manager Uli Hoeness also said on Saturday he expects midfielder Michael Ballack to leave the club for Chelsea at the end of the season after Bayern were unable to sign him to a new contract.

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