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FOOTBALL: WORLD OF SOCCER: STRUT-GART; Celts' Euro rivals storm on as Soldo hits stunner.

Byline: NEIL McLEMAN

STUTTGART, Celtic's next opponents in the UEFA Cup, continued their recent good run of form yesterday by beating title challengers Borussia Dortmund 1-0.

Stuttgart, forced to rely on young talent because of its debts, moved into third place in the Bundesliga after Croatian international Zvonimir Soldo headed in a trick free-kick in the 77th minute.

Stuttgart dominated Dortmund for vast stretches of the first half and the win takes them level on points with the reigning German champions - but still eight points behind Bayern Munich.

The leaders were held 1-1 at home by Hamburg but not before German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn had set a new record of 802 minutes for not conceding a goal in the Bundesliga.

The record was broken when new Japanese striker Naohiro Takahara headed in the injury-time leveller.

Bayer Leverkusen boss Klaus Toppmoller slipped closer to the sack yesterday as last year's Champions League finalists - at Hampden in May - lost 2- 1 at Bochum, their fourth straight league defeat. The summer departures of stars Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto has seen the team struggle.

Iranian star Vahid Hashemian scored both goals for Bochum with Croat Marko Babic's equaliser only bringing temporary respite to Leverkusen.

Toppmuller said: "That was a very unlucky and bitter defeat but we gave a good showing. It is not for me to decide whether I remain coach or not."

Bayer have been unlucky with injury. German international defender Jens Nowotny played his first game for nine months last Sunday, only to tear his cruciate ligament again, ruling him out for the rest of the season and even threatening his career.

Germany's other crisis club Kaiserslautern moved off the bottom of the table with a much-needed win against fellow strugglers Borussia Munchengladbach.

Aleksander Knavs and Miroslav Klose scored as Kaiserslautern kept a clean sheet for the first time since November.

Leverkusen slip to 15th - just one place off the relegation zone with 20 points from 20 games.

In Spain, Real Madrid cut the gap at the top to just two points after leaders Real Sociedad were held 0-0 at home by lowly Espanyol.

Third-placed Valencia drew 1-1 at basement side Recreativo Huelva in Andalucia.

Goals from Raul, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane gave the European champions Madrid their first win in four matches after Real Betis had taken the lead through Fernando.

Captain Hierro had to leave the pitch in the second half and now is a major doubt for the Champions League matches against Borussia Dortmund later this month.

Real coach Vicente del Bosque said: "He is a vital player for us but it looks as though we'll have to do without him for some time."

The 34-year-old centre back, who was playing his 429th league game for the club, will undergo further tests today to determine the extent of the injury.

Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas declared Marseille will win the French league this season after his side drew 0-0 with bottom-of-the-table Troyes.

Marseille beat Ajaccio 2-0 to open up a six-point lead over the defending champions.

Aulas said: "Marseille will be hard to catch. They have great mental toughness."
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Title Annotation:Winner
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 10, 2003
Words:523
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