Snow causes chaos for hosts Hanover 96 in Leverkussen defeat


Berlin (AFP)

Heavy snow caused chaos for relegation-threatened Hanover 96 on Sunday in their 3-2 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen while Bayern Munich finished the weekend top of the Bundesliga.

Bayern warmed up for Wednesday's crunch Champions League last 16, return leg at home to Liverpool by hammering Wolfsburg 6-0 in Munich on Saturday with Robert Lewandowski leading the charge with two goals.

The heavy win allowed Bayern to claim top spot for the first time since September on goal difference from Borussia Dortmund, who struggled to a 3-1 home win over relegation-threatened Stuttgart.

On Sunday, thick snow on the pitch at Hanover counted against the hosts at 2-0 down when Japan forward Genki Haraguchi watched in dispair when his shot dramatically slowed on it's way towards an empty goal and was cleared.

Under the freak snowfall Leverkusen took an early lead as Kevin Volland enjoyed a simple tap in on 13 minutes after Hanover goalkeeper Michael Esser failed to hold a close-range shot.

With ground staff cleaning the sidelines of snow as the game continued, Volland doubled the lead a quarter of an hour later, chipping Esser after Hanover yielded possession in their own half.

In worsening conditions, Mother Nature cruelly denied Hanover on 33 minutes when Haraguchi rounded Leverkusen's keeper and fired at an empty net, but his celebrations proved premature.

The Samurai Blue attacker watched in horror as the orange ball stuttered and eventually stopped in the heavy slush, allowing Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah to clear.

With the pitch markings no longer visible, the referee briefly halted the game to allow snow to be cleared as it finished 2-0 at the break.

Second-from-bottom Hanover launched a second-half fight back as Jonathas leapt over the Leverkusen defence to nod home a Haraguchi cross on 61 minutes.

Leverkusen then survived a penalty scare when the ball hit Tah in the area with 23 minutes left.

Hanover equalised when Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky parried a free-kick, the ball went in off defender Mitchell Weiser for an own goal.

Fifth-placed Leverkusen had the final word three minutes from time when Kai Havertz headed past Esser before Karim Bellarabi had a late effort ruled offside.

- Kramaric double -

Earlier, Croatia striker Andrej Kramaric netted twice as hosts Hoffenheim enjoyed a 2-1 win over bottom side Nuremberg, netting a penalty -- to maintain his 100 percent record from his five spot kicks this season - then added a second.

Hoffenheim were denied a spot-kick after just four minutes when the video assistant referee (VAR) spotted Kramaric went down in the area, but there was no contact from Nuremberg's Brazilian defender Ewerton.

The home side eventually had their chance from the penalty spot when Nuremberg's Patrick Erras handled in the box and Kramaric sent Christian Mathenia the wrong way.

It was one-way traffic from Hoffenheim in the first half as forward Ishak Belfodil also hit the post.

Nuremberg gave hope to travelling fans when their captain Hanno Behrens equalised just after the hour mark.

Typically, Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann reacted by reinforcing his attack with Hungarian striker Adam Szalai coming on.

The bold move was rewarded when Belfodil found Kramaric in the box and his clever flick sealed the win to move Hoffenheim up to eighth - just three points from the European places.

Nuremberg claimed an unwanted record as their points tally of 13 is the lowest in the league's history after 25 games.

"The whole of Germany doesn't reckon we'll do it, but we still believe we can stay up," said Nuremberg goalkeeper Mathenia.