Ballack back on pitch to beat Hannover

Germany captain Michael Ballack made his first start since September on Friday as his Bayer Leverkusen side defeated Hannover 2-0, cutting the gap on Bundesliga leaders Dortmund to eight points.

Ballack back on pitch to beat Hannover
Ballack fights Karim Haggui for the ball. Photo: DPA

Arturo Vidal gave Leverkusen a 21st-minute lead with Simon Rolfes adding the second goal three minutes before the interval as Ballack, who had been sidelined with a leg injury since September, injected a little life back into the title race.

Dortmund has the opportunity to restore the 11-point lead at the top when they face Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Ballack picked up his injury in the first fixture between the two teams in September and the man responsible for the crunching challenge, Portugal’s Sergio Pinto, faced him again on Friday.

“I’m pretty satisfied with my form even if I a missing a few things,” said Ballack, who came off the bench in the win against Mönchengladbach last weekend.

“I need matches, but I am not an exception. Everybody is the same. I am not going to think about what happened; it’s in the past. There was no intention to hurt me.

“The win tonight was difficult to go out and search for, but it was deserved. We need to improve if we are going to finish second, that’s our objective.”

Despite his return to the starting side, Ballack still faces a battle to convince Germany coach Joachim Löw to recall him for the friendly international against Italy on February 9.


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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