Hoffenheim go into winter break on top in Bundesliga (Roundup)

December 15th, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern Munich Hamburg, Dec 15 (DPA) TSG Hoffenheim added a “playing ugly” attitude to their flair to earn a 1-1 draw against Schalke 04, a result good enough to see the newcomers go into the winter break top of the Bundesliga standings ahead of champions Bayern Munich.Selim Teber’s curling free-kick in the 72nd minute erased Schalke’s lead in the 40th minute from Gerald Asamoah Sunday. The visitors had Jermaine Jones and Orlando Engelaar sent off in the 57th and 80th minute, respectively, for second bookable offences.

The previous day, Munich conceded a late 2-2 equaliser at VfB Stuttgart to underline that they have not always been impervious in the first half of the season.

Munich were the centre of massive hype when former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann took over at the helm in the summer, changing training methods and the daily life of his players whom he liked to gather in a new training centre featuring Buddha statues.

But there was no lightness of being at first as Munich won just two of the opening six games. Klinsmann’s authority was swiftly questioned once they crashed 5-2 at home against Werder Bremen.

However, French superstar Franck Ribery then returned from injury and Klinsmann threw some tactical changes overboard as Munich went unbeaten for the remaining 11 league matches and 16 overall, taking first place in their Champions League group.

“The team was first class over the past three months. It is great fun to work with them,” said Klinsmann.

The headlines around Munich were predictable, but it came as a complete surprise that Hoffenheim stole the show on the pitch with mostly attractive attacking football under coach Ralf Rangnick.

The promoted team was first alienated over its sponsor, former junior team player Dietmar Hopp, a German billionaire co-founder of software giants SAP.

But resentment soon turned into awe as Vedad Ibisevic scored a league-leading 18 goals and together with the likes of Demba Ba and Chinedu Obasi tore defences apart almost at will.

“The way we are playing right now comes very close to the perfect football every fan wants to see,” Hopp said recently.

But Sunday’s game and a few others also indicated that the players can also have success if they are forced to fight it out.

“We are not dreaming of anything, we are working hard for it. But we want to continue playing like this in January. We are on top and can enjoy the holidays,” said Teber.

Hoffenheim and Munich both have 35 points with the newcomers ahead because of a superior goal difference. The team that leads the way at the halfway mark has gone on to win the league title in 31 of 45 years.

Hertha Berlin and SV Hamburg are just two points off the pace with Bayer Leverkusen a point further back on 32 points.

Hertha enjoyed their best first half of the season in Bundesliga history despite ongoing bickering between star striker Marko Pantelic and coach Lucien Favre.

Hamburg led the way early on in the season despite the departure of star midfielder Rafael van der Vaart to Real Madrid.

Disappointing teams include Werder Bremen, Schalke and Stuttgart, the latter sacking their 2007 Bundesliga title-winning coach Armin Veh as they languish in mid-table.

Former greats Borussia Moenchengladbach are at the bottom and seem to be heading straight back to the second division as not even new coach Hans Meyer appears capable of saving them.

The second half of the season starts Jan 30 with a showdown between Hamburg and Munich.

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