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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 3, 2006

Bayern comeback tightens grip on title

FRANKFURT, May 3 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich moved to the brink of a 20th German league title when they came from behind to beat VfB Stuttgart 3-1 on Wednesday.

Danijel Ljuboja gave Stuttgart an early lead at the Allianz Arena but goals from Roque Santa Cruz, Claudio Pizarro and Bastian Schweinsteiger restored Bayern's five-point lead over Hamburg SV with two games left to play.

Bayern will clinch the Bundesliga title, and seal an unprecedented second successive league and Cup double, if they win away to Kaiserslautern on Saturday, or if Hamburg fail to beat Hertha Berlin in the capital.

If necessary, Bayern will have another crack at the title in their final league match of the season at home to Borussia Dortmund on May 13.

They need two points to be certain, but with a superior goal difference to Hamburg even one draw would likely be enough.

'They can't take it away from us now,' Bayern manager Uli Hoeness said. 'One point will be enough and if we don't get that it's our own fault.'

Hamburg had kept the pressure on the champions by winning 1-0 away to Cologne on Tuesday. MSV Duisburg and Cologne were both relegated on Wednesday.

Duisburg's 5-3 defeat at home to Werder Bremen left them bottom of the table, with 23 points from 32 games, 10 points away from safety.

Cologne, second from bottom with 27 points, are six points adrift of VfL Wolfsburg in 15th place.

They cannot climb out of the bottom three even on goal difference because Wolfsburg play third-from-bottom Kaiserslautern on the final day of the season, meaning at least one of those two sides will finish on at least 34 points.

Bayern appeared to be suffering a hangover from Saturday's 1-0 Cup final win over Eintracht Frankfurt as Stuttgart went ahead.

Christian Tiffert floated over a corner from the left in the sixth minute. Lucio misjudged the flight of the ball and Ljuboja was left unchallenged to head in his seventh goal of the season.

Lucio atoned for that error with a powerful run forward that led to the equaliser.

The Brazilian forced his way through a series of challenges before Stuttgart managed a half-clearance.

The ball to Santa Cruz on the edge of the box and the Paraguay international swept in left-footed to celebrate his first match back in the starting line-up since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in October.

With Michael Ballack missing because of suspension, Bayern looked a little lightweight in midfield and Stuttgart held their own before a costly two-minute spell either side of the half-time break.

Owen Hargreaves did the damage that led to Bayern's second. The England midfielder burst clear down the left and crossed to the near post for Pizarro to touch in.

Bayern had the game wrapped up within 60 seconds of the restart. Lucio chipped forward a free kick, Roy Makaay headed down and Schweinsteiger swept in first time on the half-volley.