Hamburg keep up the pressure on Bayern

May 2, 2006

BERLIN, May 2 (Reuters) - Hamburg SV kept up the pressure on Bayern Munich down the home stretch of the season with a 1-0 win at Cologne on Tuesday that cut the Bundesliga leader's margin on top to just two points.

Bayern, who play VfB Stuttgart at home on Wednesday, have 70 points and a game in hand to HSV, who have 68 points. Hamburg's victory means that Bayern cannot clinch their 20th German championship until Saturday at the earliest.

Bayern can restore their five-point lead with a victory over Stuttgart. They play at Kaiserslautern on Saturday, where they could claim the championship no matter what Hamburg do in their final two matches. The season ends a week later on May 13.

An own-goal by Cologne's Lukas Sinkiewicz in the third minute was the difference for Hamburg. The Germany defender deflected a cross from Iran's Mehdi Mahdavikia past his own goalkeeper Alexander Bade.

Cologne, fighting off relegation and unbeaten in their last five matches, dominated much of the rest of the match and Hamburg were lucky to come away with three points.

Christian Lell missed in the seventh minute while Germany striker Lukas Podolski's shot in the 71st minute flew just above the goal.

Cologne thought they had the equaliser in the 78th minute when Christian Springer tapped in a cross but it was nullified by an offside call.

'We were lucky,' said HSV coach Thomas Doll. 'We weren't able to settle down into any rhythm after going ahead 1-0. Cologne got better and better. They played fantastic. We didn't invest enough into the match and didn't play well.

'But we got three points against a very strong Cologne team.'

Hamburg can clinch second place and direct qualification into the Champions League if Werder Bremen, third with 61 points, do not win their match on Wednesday against MSV Duisburg.

'My team played a great match even though we lost,' said Cologne trainer Hanspeter Latour. With 27 points, Cologne are in 17th place and four points from safety.