Schalke tops table with win over Mainz

A first-half goal from Peruvian star Jefferson Farfan lifted Schalke two points clear of previous Bundesliga table-toppers Leverkusen on Friday by cementing a 1-0 win over Mainz.

Schalke tops table with win over Mainz
Photo: DPA

Farfan kept his cool to finish with aplomb and notch his sixth goal of the campaign after taking a neat pass from German under-21 international Lewis Holtby, who, along with his English father, is a staunch Everton fan.

Schalke now have 34 points from 17 games putting them tentatively at the top of the table as they go into the winter break – though Leverkusen will expect to leapfrog them with a victory Saturday at home to midtable Mönchengladbach.

Third-placed Bayern Munich will be hoping to keep up their solid recent run by beating rock bottom Hertha Berlin, which would put them on 33 points.

The 19-year-old Holtby has been making a name for himself in recent weeks with a series of promising showings and again showed his class with his assist.

Holtby is on record as saying that if he graduates to full international football it will be with Germany and not England.

After last week’s away success against fellow high-fliers Werder Bremen the leaders, from Germany’s Ruhr industrial heartland, have been cementing their credentials as genuine contenders for an eighth championship – though their first in half a century.

Indeed, their 1958 success was the only time the Royal Blues – now coached by Felix Magath, who led Wolfsburg to glory against the odds last season – have been champions since the Third Reich era.

Magath, out to win the title with three different clubs as a coach (he won three as a player with Hamburg) was being cautious after his side’s latest success.

“We still lack that killer instinct when we go a goal up. But that one goal was enough. We still have to keep on working,” Magath told reporters.

Bayern, unbeaten in nine games and clicking into form despite being without French star Franck Ribery for more than two months through injury, will look to Germany striker Mario Gomez to score his sixth goal in seven games against struggling Hertha.

The 24-year-old started his purple patch in the 1-1 draw with Leverkusen on November 22.

Leverkusen are unbeaten to date in the league and thus a hot tip to see off Mönchengladbach, meaning Bayern will have to wait until the second half of the season to show they are ready to pounce and reclaim the championship they surprisingly allowed Wolfsburg to poach last season.

At the wrong end of the table, new Stuttgart coach Christian Gross will be without banned Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who picked up a three-match ban after being sent off in the 1-1 draw against Mainz last Sunday.

Gross replaced Markus Babbel as coach earlier this month, but is still chasing his first Bundesliga success since taking over at Stuttgart as his side, who are 15th in the table, host Hoffenheim on Saturday.

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Chemical reaction likely to blame for deadly blast at German plant

An explosion that killed seven people at a hazardous waste site in Germany in July was likely caused by a chemical reaction inside a waste storage tank, local authorities said Monday, citing an interim report.

Chemical reaction likely to blame for deadly blast at German plant
The site of the Chempark explosion on July 27th. Photo: dpa | Oliver Berg

The July 27 blast at the Chempark chemical complex in the western city of Leverkusen, which also injured 31 workers, was heard several kilometres away and rattled the windows of nearby homes.

It sent up a large cloud of black smoke that prompted authorities to urge locals to stay indoors, although later examinations showed no danger to residents’ health.

The interim findings, announced by the Cologne district government, suggest that a chemical reaction “probably” caused waste liquid in storage tank 3 to self-heat and rapidly become warmer, leading to a build-up of pressure it was unable to withstand.

“The whole process happened so quickly that the safety mechanisms were no longer able to dissipate the pressure. When the pressure exceeded the design pressure of the container, it exploded,” the interim report is quoted as saying.

The explosion then triggered a large blaze at the park’s waste storage and incineration site that took firefighters hours to put out.

Chempark operator Currenta said in a statement that the early findings match its own investigations.

The Cologne district government said it was awaiting further expert analysis before final conclusions could be made about the cause of the blast.

Prosecutors in Cologne have opened an investigation against unknown persons on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and causing an explosion through negligence.

All those killed and injured in the explosion worked at the chemical site.

The blast area, in Leverkusen’s Buerrig district, was separate from Chempark’s main industrial park that houses numerous companies including Bayer, Lanxess and Evonik Industries.

READ MORE: Death toll in German chemical blast climbs to six