BERLIN – Schalke missed the chance to go top of the Bundesliga when they slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Hoffenheim on Sunday.
Andrej Kramaric netted in the 71st minute and Ihlas Bebou made it two five minutes from time to leave Schalke seventh in a closely packed league table with only two points separating the top nine teams.
Borussia Moenchengladbach stay top on 16 points and goal difference over Wolfsburg, while Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig are on 15 and Schalke are one of four teams on 14.
Schalke looked the team more likely to break the deadlock in Hoffenheim but they were open at the back when on a counter-attack by the home side half-time substitute Bebou got past two Schalke defenders on a strong run.
His shot was parried by Alexander Nuebel in goal but Croatia striker Kramaric, in his firt game of the season following a knee injury, was on hand to hit home the rebound.
Togo striker Bebou, who arrived in the summer from Hanover, then sealed the points after running onto a long pass and cutting the ball onto his right foot for a confident finish.
Hoffenheim coach Alfred Schreuder said he changed things at half-time by bringing Bebou on and playing Kramaric in a more withdrawn role.
"We knew we would have more room on the break, he told Sky television.
"I think we played very well in the second half. Schalke were the best team we have played so far."
Schalke keeper Nuebel said: "We played really well in the first half. We have rarely so dominated a game but we never had any compelling goal chances."
It was another important win for Hoffenheim following a 2-1 victory at Bayern before the international break and moves them to 11th on 11 points, while Schalke can now look forward next month with a home encounter with Ruhr rivals Dortmund.
Cologne meanwhile left Paderborn last in the Bundesliga with a 3-0 victory in a meeting of two struggling promoted sides.
Simon Terodde gave Cologne a ninth-minute lead – confirmed after a lengthy video review ruled out a possible offside by team-mate Sebastian Bornauw.
Louis Schaub headed in just before the hour and Bornauw headed in from a corner five minutes from time to complete a comfortable victory for the home side.
Cologne’s second win of the season moves them to 15th on seven points, while Paderborn are still without a win and have lost seven of their first eight games in the top flight.
Mainz, who lost 1-0 at Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday, now drop into the bottom two, level on six points with Augsburg.
In Saturday’s leading games, Dortmund beat Moenchengladbach 1-0, Bayern were held 2-2 at Augsburg, and Leiüpzig and Wolfsburg finished 1-1.