RECAP: WEEKEND GERMAN ACTION
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover ended their long winless run with a narrow win over Nürnberg while Fabian Johnson's first league goal for Hoffenheim was little consolation in their loss at Dortmund.
Hannover 96 1 - 0 FC Nürnberg
Steve Cherundolo captained Hannover to their first win since October, helping the back line to shut out Nürnberg on Friday evening in the AWD-Arena.
Nürnberg defender Timothy Chandler was forced to sit out the game after picking up a muscle strain in training.
The first half was dominated by Hannover's extensive pressure around goal, and their breakthrough came in the 18th minute.
Lars Stindl brought the ball up the right flank and hit a high diagonal cross into the six-yard box. Mohammed Abdellaoue, who had slipped between a pair of defenders, made a clever jump to redirect the ball past the helpless keeper for the 1-0.
Nürnberg head coach Dieter Hecking was able to adjust the team's approach for a more sustained forward push after the break, but the hosts were happy to simply protect their lead for the remainder of the game.
Nürnberg's only close call came in the 83rd minute when Daniel Didavi's free kick did clear Hannover's wall, bu was just high of the mark.
The victory brings Hannover closer to the European qualification spots, and they now trail sixth-place Leverkusen by a mere three points ahead of next weekend's trip to struggling Hertha.
Nürnberg drop to 13th, however they are still a full three points clear of the drop zone. They next host joint division leaders Borussia Dortmund on Friday evening.
Borussia Dortmund 3 - 1 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Fabian Johnson scored his first Bundesliga goal for Hoffenheim on Saturday afternoon, but it did little to offset a trio of Dortmund goals as the team returned from their trip to the Westfalenstadion empty-handed.
Daniel Williams was also in Hoffe's starting lineup, filling in at central defense for the duration, while Joseph-Claude Gyau was an unused substitute.
Both teams started the game with key absences in their attack. For the hosts, Mario Götze was still sidelined with an ongoing pelvic injury, while Hoffenheim bid adieu to top striker Vedad Ibisevic over the weekend after his transfer to Stuttgart.
The missing German youth star seemed to have little effect on the defending champions, as they came out firing behind the strong play of Robert Lewandowski and were up by a pair of goals within the first half-hour.
A turnover by Sebastian Rudy deep in Hoffenheim territory allowed Shinji Kagawa to dart into the penalty area and slipe a low shot from the right just inside the near post for the 16th-minute lead.
Then in the 31st minute, Kagawa and Polish international Jakub Blaszczykowski played a quick give-and-go on the right side, allowing the latter the space to poke a cross in front of goal for Kevin Großkreutz to put away.
If there was any doubt as to the final result, Kagawa made everything certain in the 55th minute with his second goal of the day, running onto a back-heeled setup from Großkreutz and side-footing it into the net for the three-goal lead.
Three minutes past the hour mark Johnson did pull one back for the Hoffe, taking advantage of a sharply-hit cross from Edson Braafheid to the top of the six-yard box and coolly putting away his shot, however it did nothing to prevent them from extending their winless run in the league to three games.
Hoffenheim remain in eighth place after the loss, but their deficit to the European qualification now stands at seven points. They will hope to earn their first win of 2012 when relegation-bound Augsburg come for a visit.
FC Saarbrücken 2 - 2 SV Babelsberg 03
Amaechi Igwe played the full game in Babelsberg's central defense, as a late penalty equalizer by FC Saarbrücken saw them forced to settle for a disappointing road draw.
After starting out 2012 with an embarrassing home loss last weekend, Babelsberg looked off to a perfect start in taking a two-goal lead after less than ten minutes.
Anton Makarenko put the team ahead with a calm finish in the fifth minute after a shot from Benjamin Kauffmann rattled off the crossbar and landed at his foot in front of goal, then were ahead 2-0 two minutes later when a long free kick from Makarenko fell in front of goal for Juilan Prochnow to put away.
Saarbrücken quickly brought themselves back into the game in the 21st minute after Babelsberg keeper Daniel Zacher unnecessarily collided with Sven Sökler just inside the area, allowing Stephan Sieger to bring the game to 2-1 from the spot.
The score remained for the next hour until a poor decision by Babelsberg's Matthias Kühne saw the right back slide roughly into Marcel Ziemer in his attempt to dispossess the striker in the 81st minute.
Not only was Kühne shown a straight red for the infraction, but the referee was also forced to award a penalty since it was well inside the area, and Sieger stepped up to spot for a second time in the game to earn his team their share of the spoils.
The point earned still pushes Babelsberg up to 12th place, a safe nine points clear of the drop zone. They are back in action on Friday when they welcome Preußen Münster.
Arminia Bielefeld 3 - 2 SV Darmstadt 98
Preston Zimmerman made the most of the 15 minutes of substitute action, netting his second goal of the season to nearly trigger a Darmstadt comeback in their loss to Arminia Bielefeld.
While both teams were toiling near the relegation places heading into the game, Bielefeld were effective when given the opportunity in building a 3-0 lead over the first hour
Fabian Klos bagged the first two for the hosts, with the 1-0 coming in the 34th minute when he put away a corner that had slipped through to the far side of the six-yard box, then his second in the 49th minute when he ran onto a well-weighted through-ball in the area and made no mistake in putting it past keeper Jan Zimmermann.
Johannes Rahn then added a third just before the hour with a snap header, however shortly after Zimmerman's introduction in the 75th minute, Darmstadt added some interest to the final phase of play.
The American pulled one back in the 82nd minute with a fine low strike from distance that flew just inside the right post, then Oliver Heil brought the team to within one in the 87th when he finally put away a short shot from the left following a failed spot kick.
Darmstadt were however unable to muster a third and equalizing goal, and eventually were forced to head home empty-handed.
The loss drops Darmstadt down to 16th place, however they still have a seven-point cushion above the bottom three. They will be hopeful of earning an important three points next weekend when they host 17th-place Wehen Wiesbaden.
David Yelldell watched from the bench on Saturday as backup keeper during Leverkusen's 1-1 come-from-behind draw with Werder Bremen.
Alfredo Morales was an unused substitute for Hertha on Saturday in their disappointing 2-1 loss at home to Hamburger SV.
Jermaine Jones is still in the middle of his eight-week suspension, and did not take part in Schalke's 4-1 thrashing of FC Cologne.