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Wolfsburg win big, become clear Bundesliga favorites

Wolfsburg destroyed Hanover 5-0 on Saturday, taking a two point lead in the table with only one round of fixtures remaining. Rivals Bayern Munich slipped up in Hoffenheim, drawing 2-2.

Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko, left, is congratulated by his teammates, Yoshito Okubo, Makoto Hasebe and Grafite, from left, after scoring their side's fifth goal during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between Hanover 96 and VfL Wolfsburg in Hanover, Germany, on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Wolfsburg won by 5-0.

Wolfsburg forward Edin Dzeko (left) scored a stunning hat-trick

Clinical finishing from Wolfsburg's strikers secured the club a crucial 5-0 demolition of Hanover. Brazilian Grafite, the top scorer in the Bundesliga, grabbed two goals, and his Bosnian partner in crime Edin Dzeko snatched a hat-trick as the league leaders ran riot away from home.

"The chance to bring the title to Wolfsburg is now huge," coach Felix Magath told reporters after the match. "This was a crucial step. We made out life easier with this win. But nothing is decided yet."

Wolfsburg are now two points clear at the top of the table, after second place team Bayern Munich stumbled in Hoffenheim, salvaging just a 2-2 draw from a tricky away fixture. With one match left in the season, Wolfsburg are now masters of their own destiny: A win at home to Werder Bremen in the final fixture, and they will be crowned German champions. Even a draw next Saturday would almost certainly suffice for Wolfsburg to win their first ever Budesliga title.

Goal Rush

Wolfsburg's Grafite, left, receives congratulations by head coach Felix Magath after he was substituted during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between Hanover 96 and VfL Wolfsburg in Hanover, Germany, on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Wolfsburg won the match by 5-0.

Job well done: Coach Felix Magath congratulates striker Grafite

Wolfsburg's success is largely thanks to their flowing attacking style. With 75 goals so far this season, the team has scored the most goals in the Bundesliga.

51 of these goals have come from their strike partnership, 26 from Grafite and 25 from Edin Dzeko. These two forwards are the two top scorers in the entire league.

Dzeko opened the scoring in style in Hannover after fourteen minutes, rifling a half-volley into the top corner from distance. Dzeko picked up two more in the second half, after Grafite grabbed two quick-fire goals for his tally, too. The dominant 5-0 victory never looked in doubt. Hanover had a few moments going forward, but for most of the ninety minutes Wolfsburg's north German rivals were on the back foot.

Hoffenheim dash Bayern Munich's hopes

Munich's Franck Ribery leaves the pitch after a German first division Bundesliga soccer match between TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich in Sinsheim, southern Germany, Saturday, May 16, 2009. The match ended 2-2.

Ribery may not wear a Bayern shirt at all next season

Half-way through the season, it looked like newly-promoted Hoffenheim might challenge for the league title. Their campaign lost momentum in the second half of the year, but the little German club with big money behind it might just have decided the championship result after all. Hoffenheim held visiting Bayern Munich to a 2-2 draw, opening the door for Wolfsburg to stretch their lead.

Bayern's French playmaker Franck Ribery opened the scoring on nine minutes, and was outstanding for the entire ninety. However, Hoffenheim struck back through striker Demba Ba and then midfielder Carlos Eduardo to take a 2-1 lead. Just before half-time Ribery picked out Luca Toni with a pinpoint cross, and the Italian international put Bayern level.

Depsite piling on the pressure in the second half, the defending champions from Bavaria couldn't find a way past Hoffenheim keeper Timo Hildebrand. The score remained 2-2.

Stuttgart still in with a shot

Luca Toni from Munich reacts after the 2-2 draw in the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and FC Bayern Munich in Sinsheim, southwestern Germany, on Saturday, May 16, 2009.

Bayern and Luca Toni need to pick themselves up ready to face Stuttgart

Germany's 2007 league champions Stuttgart - who have been extremely strong in the second half of the season - beat struggling Energie Cottbus 2-0, keeping their championship hopes alive. Stuttgart are third in the table, level on points with Bayern Munich, but trailing on goal difference.

In their final fixture of the season, Stuttgart travel to Munich to play Bayern, in what will be a winner-takes-all encounter. Even if Wolfsburg win and claim the title as their own, Stuttgart and Bayern will be fighting for the coveted second place in the league, which secures automatic qualification for the Champions' League next year.

Bayern Munich run the risk of losing superstar Franck Ribery if they miss out on the runner's up spot and on Champions' League football.

Drop Zone

Bottom side Karslruhe salvaged themselves a glimmer of hope in their fight for Bundesliga survival, winning 3-1 in Bremen. Karlsruhe are still last on 26 points, but Cottbus and Bielefeld both lost on Saturday, staying on 27 points each. It looks like these three sides will fight amongst each other to avoid relegation to the second division.

Borussia Mönchengladbach, the closest team to the drop zone, missed the chance to mathematically guarantee their safety Saturday as they were dismantled 5-0 by Bayer Leverkusen, however with a superior goal difference and a three point advantage over Bielefeld and Cottbus, they are still well placed to stay in the German top flight for another year.

In the Bundesliga, the bottom two clubs are automatically relegated, whilst third from bottom enters a playoff fixture against the third place team from the second division.

msh/dpa/Reuters
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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