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Hoffenheim goes top with Stuttgart tie

STRIKER Demba Ba's hat-trick gave Hoffenheim a 3-3 draw at VfB Stuttgart and put it back at the top of the German Bundesliga on Saturday.

Lackluster Hertha Berlin dropped to second with an inferior goal difference after a 1-2 defeat away to VfL Wolfsburg, courtesy of a second-half Edin Dzeko brace, while Bayern Munich remained fourth after losing 1-2 at home against FC Cologne.

Hoffenheim, which missed a stoppage time penalty through Sejad Salihovic, and Hertha have 40 points. "The fans got their money's worth today," Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick said. "We could have won it in the end but we can live with the 3-3."

In a frantic 21 first-half minutes both teams scored twice, starting in the 24th when Andreas Beck found Ba inside the box, the striker firing past keeper Jens Lehmann from a tight angle.

Stuttgart, which has not lost in the league since November, leveled two minutes later through Cacau and went ahead with a Mario Gomez header.

Ba equalized seconds before the break, chasing down an Isaac Vorsah through ball, beating two defenders and firing past Lehmann.

He scored an almost identical third, four minutes after Gomez had bagged his second with a wonderful lob over keeper Daniel Haas.

Champion Bayern suffered its third defeat in four league matches.

It remains in fourth place, two points behind the leader and one short of Hamburg SV, which was away to Bayer Leverkusen yesterday.

Cologne coach Christoph Daum said his team was lucky to get away with a win. "Bayern was certainly the better team but in soccer it is goals that count and that is where we were luckier today."

In France, Ligue 1 leader Olympique Lyon moved six points clear with a solid 2-0 win at Nancy as its rivals stalled on Saturday.

Seven-time champion Lyon has 52 points from 25 games after defender Cris and striker Karim Benzema netted either side of the interval.

Lyon leads second-placed Paris St. Germain, which was held to a goalless draw at Grenoble, with Toulouse third seven points off the pace following a 0-0 draw at home to Valenciennes.


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