Wolfsburg and Bayern keep title hopes alive

BERLIN - VfL Wolfsburg needed a late goal from midfielder Sascha Riether to win 2-1 at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday and protect a three-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with seven games left. Bayern Munich, desperately needing to bounce back from their midweek 4-0 defeat by Barcelona in the Champions League, crushed Eintracht Frankfurt by the same score to move into second place on 51 points. The win offers some respite to coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who is under fire for his team's performances. The champions are level on points with third-placed Hamburg SV, who play VfB Stuttgart on Sunday. Hertha Berlin lost further ground in the title hunt with their third defeat in a row when they were stung 2-0 by hosts Hanover 96 to drop to fourth on 49 points. Hertha had striker Andriy Voronin sent off for a foul a minute from time. Newcomers Hoffenheim, in sixth place, had another miserable afternoon when they were hammered 3-0 at home by VfL Bochum thanks to a hat-trick from Slovakian striker Stanislav Sestak. Hoffenheim, who have not won a match since late January, were left with nine men for the last half hour after Carlos Eduardo and keeper Daniel Haas were sent off for fouls within two minutes of each other. NINE WINS Wolfsburg looked to be cruising to victory after Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko put them in the lead after 20 minutes with his 16th goal of the season, a header from six metres. While clearly the better side, they were punished for their defensive play and some missed chances when Dante levelled with a header from a Marko Marin free kick in the 79th minute. Riether scored from close-range five minutes from time to hand Felix Magath's team their ninth consecutive win. "I expected this match to be hard and it was. We were lucky not concede a goal first but we improved in the second half," Magath told reporters. Bayern were looking to make amends for their demolition in Spain and quickly went in front after three minutes with Franck Ribery picking up a Luca Toni flick to score from the edge of the box. The Frenchman returned the favour 14 minutes later with a chipped free kick into the path of the Italian striker, who volleyed home from 10 metres. Defender Lucio, back from injury after missing the Barcelona game, grabbed a third just before halftime with a header and Bastian Schweinsteiger completed the rout with an easy tap-in. "This was a first class performance and a first class reaction to the Barcelona debacle," Klinsmann told reporters. "The thorn was deep and we wanted to do well for our fans."