Hoffenheim crash 4-1 against Leverkusen - could lose league lead

TSG Hoffenheim had to swallow their first home defeat of the season, 4-1 against Bayer Leverkusen on Friday night, and are now in danger of losing the Bundesliga lead and their magic, dpa reported.

Patrick Helmes scored twice, high under the bar in the third and on the stroke of halftime for a season tally of 15. Simon Rolfes (12th) and Gonzalo Castro (48th) got the other goals for Leverkusen, who also beat Hoffenheim (5-2) in the teams' first season meeting.

Sejad Salihovic was on target from the penalty spot in the 31st for the hosts whose league-best unbeaten home run ended after eight wins and two draws on a snowy night.

"We made too many mistakes. That is not typical for our game," said Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick. "We must now show a strong reaction in Stuttgart."

Hoffenheim's magic could be over as they have won just once in their last five games and now have difficult away dates at rising VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund.

Hoffenheim remained top with 39 points but will be dethroned for the first time since mid-November on Saturday if Bayern Munich's visit to Hertha Berlin has a winner. The champions Munich have 38 points and Hertha 37.

Leverkusen returned into the title race on 36 points with the big win a week after crashing 4-2 at home against Stuttgart. SV Hamburg also have 36 ahead of their Sunday home game with Arminia Bielefeld.

"I told my team not to listen to the crisis talk. It was not easy for the young team to play like this today. I am very happy with the way we played," said Leverkusen coach Bruno Labbadia.

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