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Ballack keeps Bayern on top

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MICHAEL Ballack's 73rd-minute winner took Bayern Munich to a 2-1 victory over FC Cologne in the German Bundesliga on Saturday.

Matthias Scherz opened the scoring for Cologne in the 28th after an accurate through pass, but Lucio leveled from close range in the 55th in front of 50,000 supporters.

Bayern struggled until Ballack headed in from a corner by Sebastian Deisler, and Bayern goalie Oliver Kahn then foiled several attempts in the closing minutes.

"I think that was the most entertaining match for the fans this season," Kahn said.

Bayern coach Felix Magath believes the contract negotiations with Ballack has motivated the Germany captain. Last Wednesday, his late header gave Bayern a 1-0 German Cup win at Aue.

"We're profiting from the negotiations," Magath said. "As long as he keeps scoring the important goals, I don't get so nervous that he hasn't signed with us."

Bayern, 9-1-1, has 28 points, Werder Bremen 26 and Hamburger SV 24, after it beat Schalke 1-0.

Bayern plays Bremen, which pounded Eintract Frankfurt 4-1, next weekend.

"We are in good form, they are in good form — we're all looking forward to the match," Bremen's Germany midfielder, Tim Borowski, said.

Bremen has scored 31 goals in its 11 league matches — seven ahead of its nearest rival, Bayern.