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Leverkusen opens up title race

BAYER Leverkusen demolished Bundesliga leader Hoffenheim 4-1 away with a double by striker Patrick Helmes to throw the title race wide open on Friday.

Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin will battle to take over at the top when the second- and third-placed teams, one and two points behind Hoffenheim respectively, meet today.

Hoffenheim, which suffered a first home defeat of the season, never really managed to find its footing after Leverkusen opened up a 2-0 lead in just 12 minutes with lightning-quick attacks that rattled a shaky home defense.

"We have to ask ourselves if we were in the wrong movie after 2-0 because had we used our chances better we could have got something out of this," Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick told reporters while acknowledging Leverkusen deserved to win.

Helmes grabbed a first-half brace, taking the Bundesliga's second-top scorer this season to 15 goals, with Simon Rolfes and Gonzalo Castro also on the scoresheet for the visitors.

Hoffenheim had briefly reduced the deficit to 2-1 with a well-struck Sejad Salihovic penalty just past the half-hour mark after Demba Ba was brought down by Leverkusen goalkeeper Rene Adler.

The minnow also conceded five goals against Leverkusen in their first league encounter back in August.

Hoffenheim is top with 39 points from 20 games followed by Bayern and Hertha while Leverkusen is up to fourth, level on 36 points with Hamburg, which hosts Arminia Bielefeld today.


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