Dortmund reclaim third as Schalke sack Stevens
Goals by Mario Goetze, Kevin Grosskreutz and Robert Lewandowski gave Dortmund three points, but Borussia remain 12 points behind leaders Bayern Munich, who drew 1-1 with Moenchengladbach on Friday.
Germany star Goetze, 20, opened the scoring with a superb strike from the left side of the penalty area on 26 minutes, but a defensive lapse allowed Hoffenheim to equalise when striker Sven Schipplock tapped home nine minutes later.
The champions made sure of the points when Grosskreutz tapped home on 58 minutes after some fine play from Germany’s Marco Reus before Lewandowski fired home from a tight angle on 66 minutes.
This was Hoffenheim’s sixth straight defeat leaving them 16th in the league, seven points from safety having sacked coach Markus Babbel on December 3.
Earlier, Schalke announced they had parted company with Dutch coach Stevens after Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Freiburg left the Royal Blues with two points from their last six league games.
Former VfB Stuttgart coach Jens Keller will take over for the rest of the season with his side seventh in the league having been second at the end of November.
Schalke, Dortmund and Bayern will all discover their Champions League opponents on Thursday when the last 16 draw is made.
On Saturday, second-placed Leverkusen beat Hamburg 3-0 to trim Bayern’s lead at the top to nine points with striker Stefan Kiessling and current Germany forward Andre Schuerrle both netting.
Kiessling opened the scoring on 26 minutes when his close-range shot gave the Hamburg defence no chance and the hosts doubled their lead 10 minutes later when Schuerrle netted as the ball went in off the post.
Kiessling claimed his 12th goal in 17 games this season to make him the Bundesliga’s top scorer when he latched onto a clearance from Bayer goalkeeper Bernd Leno and drilled home his second on 66 minutes.
It strengthens his case for a recall to the Germany squad in 2013 having last played in the 2010 World Cup third-place play-off win over Uruguay.
Leverkusen’s victory denied Bayern a Bundesliga record as they had been set to break Borussia Dortmund’s 10-point lead at the halfway point of the season set in 2010.
Eintracht Frankfurt are fourth, and level on 30 points with Dortmund, after their 2-0 win over 10-man Wolfsburg.
Frankfurt went ahead after only 12 minutes when captain Alexander Meier scored his 11th goal of the season.
Wolves were reduced to 10 men when Brazil midfielder Josue was shown a straight red on 16 minutes for going into a challenge on Canada’s Olivier Occean with his studs up.
Frankfurt took the chance to double their lead two minutes later through Japan midfielder Takashi Inui.
Mainz moved up to sixth after coming from behind to beat VfB Stuttgart 3-1 with midfielder Nicolai Mueller scoring their second-half goals before Colombia midfielder Elkin Soto grabbed the third in the second minute of injury time.
Duesseldorf’s Denmark midfielder Ken Ilso drilled home an 83rd minute free-kick to seal Fortuna’s 2-1 win over Hanover 96.
Greuther Fuerth remain rooted to the bottom of the table after they drew 1-1 at Bavarian neighbours Augsburg in a high-tension affair as both sides finished with 10 men.