BERLIN - Brazilian striker Grafite scored a hat-trick to help steer VfL Wolfsburg to an exciting 4-3 home win over Schalke 04 on Friday, moving them within a point of Bundesliga leaders Hertha Berlin. Wolfsburg, who have moved up to provisional second place, extended their winning run to six matches with a hard-fought victory that left crisis-hit Schalke with more problems. Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath played down his team's title hopes saying they were not ready. "You could see we are not candidates for the title. When you lead 3-1 and 4-2 you should not allow yourself to get into trouble," he told reporters. Eighth-placed Schalke, who sacked general manager Andreas Mueller while retaining coach Fred Rutten this week, grabbed the lead after nine minutes when Heiko Westermann's dipping shot from the edge of the box sneaked in off the far post. But from then on Rutten had nothing to smile about with Schalke constantly on the backfoot. Grafite, who has now scored 17 league goals this season, equalised in the 25th minute with a penalty he was awarded after being brought down by Mladen Krstajic. GRAFITE GOALS He then turned provider and set up striker Edin Dzeko's 13th Bundesliga goal of the season with a well-timed cross which the Bosnian fired home at the far post just before the break. Grafite scored again from close range to make it 3-1 in the 74th before Jermaine Jones pulled one back for the visitors two minutes later. Grafite sealed the points for Wolfsburg six minutes from time when he slid the ball into the net from close range. Kevin Kuranyi scored Schalke's third deep into stoppage time but their defeat increases the pressure on Rutten to salvage at least a European spot from a disappointing season. Rutten thought his team deserved at least a point, saying: "When you score three goals in an away match then you should normally come back with something". On Saturday, Hertha host seventh-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who are level on 37 points with Schalke. Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim, joint third on 42 points, visit VfL Bochum and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively.
13 March 2009
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