Both defending champions Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 had to dig deep for Bundesliga wins on Saturday as they returned to domestic action still in the glow of their midweek Champions League triumphs.
After Borussia shocked Real Madrid 2-1 in Dortmund on Wednesday, the same night Schalke enjoyed a 2-0 win at Arsenal, the pair both needed second-half goals to win their respective Bundesliga games.
With German league leaders Bayern Munich hosting Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday at the Allianz Arena, Dortmund beat Freiburg 2-0 in a game played in heavy snow.
Centre-back Neven Subotic got the breakthrough the defending champions needed with a 54th-minute header before Germany midfielder Mario Goezte slotted home the second on 83 minutes to keep Dortmund fourth.
“It was an incredibly tough game,” said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp after snow covered the pitch and referee Marco Fritz opted to use an orange football.
“You could see in the first-half just how hard it was to play on a pitch like that.
“In the second half, we played better than Freiburg did in the first, so this wasn’t an undeserved win, but in these conditions anything could have happened.”
Schalke also had to labour for their three points as Peru striker Jefferson Farfan hit the only goal of the game in the 77th-minute to put Schalke second.
“We were motivated to win here and the coach had talked about the need for a good performance after London, but we are second behind Bayern now,” said Schalke goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall.
“We want to stay up there to stay in touch with Bayern and we want to make sure of our Champions League place.”
Eintracht Frankfurt can regain second spot if they win at Stuttgart on Sunday afternoon.
VfL Wolfsburg, who parted company with coach Felix Magath on Thursday, picked up only their second win of the season with a 4-1 victory at 10-man Fortuna Duesseldorf to lift themselves off the bottom and up into 16th in the table.
Ironically, two of the players who Magath had recruited over the summer, Dutch striker Bas Dost, who finished with a brace, and Croatia’s Ivica Olic, both scored in the rout.
Brazil’s Diego netted a 78th-minute penalty after Duesseldorf had midfielder Oliver Fink shown a straight red card for fouling the Brazilian in the area with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Mainz are up to fifth in the league after Hungary striker Adam Szalai scored a hat-trick. Having opened his account in the 21st minute, he doubled his team’s tally with a second on 46 and wrapped up his hat-trick with a 64th-minute header.