Gomez scores four as Stuttgart crush Wolfsburg

BERLIN - Mario Gomez hit four goals to inspire VfB Stuttgart to a 4-1 victory over Bundesliga leaders VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday which threw the title race wide open with three matches left. Wolfsburg were joined at the top by champions Bayern Munich who won 3-1 at Energie Cottbus. With all the teams in action again on Tuesday and Wednesday, Wolfsburg lead on goal difference from Bayern on 60 points. Hertha Berlin are a point behind after beating VfL Bochum 2-0 while fourth-placed Stuttgart complete the title log-jam on 58. Stuttgart stunned the visitors with a goal in the first minute when the unmarked Gomez nodded in from 11 metres. The Germany striker, who has not scored for his country since March 2008, added his second from close range in the 20th with Wolfsburg's defence in disarray. The leaders hit back before the break with Edin Dzeko netting his 20th goal of the season. Any thoughts of a comeback were short-lived when Gomez fired home from 14 metres on 63 minutes before putting the seal on his spectacular performance with another header after 77, his 23rd goal of the season. "We imagined this match a bit differently," Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath told reporters. "The early goal did us no good and then we had to replace two midfielders in the first half," added Magath referring to injured pair Zvjezdan Misimovic and Sascha Riether. Wolfsburg have lost two of their last three matches after winning 10 successive games. BAYERN WIN Bayern, with Frenchman Franck Ribery on the bench, were the more aggressive side at Cottbus and striker Lukas Podolski had a powerful early shot brilliantly saved by keeper Gerhard Tremmel. Hamit Altintop also went wide with a close-range effort before Bayern struck on 23 minutes thanks to Argentine Jose Sosa's eight-metre volley. The visitors twice went close when Mark van Bommel's header was cleared off the line and Altintop was thwarted from the rebound. Lowly Cottbus levelled a minute before the break through Ivica Iliev but defender Martin Demichelis restored Bayern's lead in the 62nd and Podolski made sure of all three points with a low shot four minutes later. Ribery, who came on as a substitute in the second half, had a 90th-minute penalty saved by Tremmel. "If you look at the table you will see how important this win was," said interim Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes who has two victories in two matches since taking over from the sacked Juergen Klinsmann last month. "There are four or five teams crammed together at the top. Our aim is direct Champions League qualification (from the leading two positions) and it is now possible again." Borussia Dortmund hammered bottom team Karlsruhe 4-0 to move to fifth. Sixth-placed Hamburg SV, also on 55 points, visit Werder Bremen on Sunday.