Bayern move closer despite draw

April 23, 2006

BERLIN, April 23 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich moved a step closer to their 20th Bundesliga championship on Sunday after coming from two goals behind at lowly Mainz to escape with a 2-2 draw.

With second-placed Hamburg SV upset at home by Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on Saturday, Bayern moved up one point to 70 with three games remaining. Hamburg were stuck on 65 points after squandering their chance to close in on Bayern.

The defending champions had taken only 12 points from their previous eight league matches and watched nervously as their nine-point lead melted to four. Hamburg could have cut the gap further this weekend.

Egypt striker Mohamed Zidan beat Germany defender Philip Lahm with a fine move on the right to put Mainz ahead in the ninth minute and Manuel Friedrich doubled the lead four minutes later by outleaping Michael Ballack to head in a corner kick.

For the first 20 minutes, Bayern had no remedy for Mainz, who are in 15th place and battling relegation. Even though they had failed to score in their last three matches, Mainz dominated the lethargic Bavarians and had a number of scoring chances.

Roy Makaay, Bayern's best player who was left out of the Netherlands' provisional World Cup squad last week, brought his team back into the match with two quick goals before the intermission.

Makaay latched on to a long pass from Willy Sagnol to beat two Mainz defenders and keeper Christian Wetklo in the 29th minute and eight minutes later converted a penalty to even the score.

"We were asleep for the first 15 minutes," said Bayern coach Felix Magath. "We got behind because we just stood around and watched them score two goals. Fortunately, we got them back."

Bayern's defence was weakened by the absence of Valerien Ismael, who was suspended for three matches for elbowing an opponent last week. Argentine Martin Demichelis stepped in for Ismael.

Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who has won six championships with Bayern, said he was not worried about the home stretch or about Bayern's German Cup final next Saturday against Eintracht Frankfurt in Berlin.

"It was an interesting match for the spectators but not for goalkeepers," said Kahn. "Mainz got the two fast goals and it could easily have been 4-0 for Mainz after 20 minutes. Only then did we get our act together.

"There are always going to be matches like this when we don't have our heads into it," added Kahn. "Why should we be nervous? We're happy getting one point. We'll have to be patient and the championship will be decided sooner or later."