BERLIN: German Champions League contenders Schalke sacked their Dutch coach Huub Stevens after a 3-1 defeat to Freiburg which saw them drop to seventh in the Bundesliga.

Stevens was in his second stint at Schalke after taking over in September 2011 but, after four defeats and no victories in their last six league games, will be  succeeded by youth team coach Jens Keller.

The Dutchman had been given a vote of confidence only on Thursday by sports director Horst Heldt.

Schalke dominated the early stages and Peru forward Jefferson Farfan gave them a deserved 20th minute lead. Jan Rosenthal levelled in the 26th minute and Jonathan Schmid put Freiburg ahead six minutes later. Rosenthal punished defensive confusion on the hour but was later sent off for two quick-fire yellow cards.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Schalke’s Holland striker, was also red-carded for kicking out at a defender in a penalty area skirmish.

In France Andre-Pierre Gignac’s superb winner gave  Marseille a 1-0 victory over nine-man Toulouse which took them level on points with Lyon at the top of the table. Nice climbed to fourth on 29 points after 16-year-old Neal Maupay’s stoppage-time goal secured a 3-2 home victory over Evian Thonon Gaillard. It was the first league goal in six appearances for Maupay who came off the bench in the 86th minute.

Halftime substitute Gignac, who returned on Wednesday after six weeks out with a broken foot, bent a powerful shot into the top corner in the 68th minute to earn Marseille’s seventh away victory of the season. Marseille have 35 points from 18 matches but Lyon were  top on goal difference ahead of their game away to third-placed Paris Saint-Germain.

The first Toulouse player to receive a red card was Cheikh M’Bengue when he produced a rough tackle on Morgan Amalfitano in the 28th minute.  Marseille won a penalty 13 minutes later when Franck Tabanou fouled Jordan Ayew but his older brother Andre Ayew’s spot-kick was saved by Toulouse’s outstanding keeper Ali Ahamada. Ten men became nine for the home team when Tabanou was dismissed for a violent challenge on Rod Fanni on the stroke of halftime.

In Holland PSV Eindhoven went back to the top but only on goal difference after a late equaliser by Victor Palsson earned NEC Nijmegen a  1-1 draw. PSV have 37 points from 17 matches, level with Twente Enschede who beat neighbours Heracles Almelo 3-2 on Friday.

Lazio, in Italy, moved to within five points of Serie A leaders Juventus after Miroslav Klose fired them to a late 1-0 win over title rivals Internzionale. The Germany international’s 82nd-minute winner, his 10th goal of the season, lifted Lazio into fourth place on 33 points, level with Napoli, while second-placed Inter missed the chance to narrow the gap on Antonio Conte’s champions to one point.

Saturday’s other game saw Antonio Di Natale rescue a point for 10-man Udinese when he scored an 89th-minute equaliser against Palermo, leaving the Sicilians a point above the relegation zone.

In Spain Malaga strengthened their hold on fourth place with a 2-0 win at Sevilla, their first away win since the beginning of September. Martin Demichelis and Eliseu, with a penalty, earned Malaga the points as they were helped by a red card for Sevilla defender Federico Fazio in the 69th minute.

Malaga, who have qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League in their debut campaign, moved on to 28 points from 16 games, four behind third-placed Real Madrid.

Unbeaten leaders Barcelona, with 43 points, host second-placed Atletico Madrid on Sunday in the duel of inform strikers Messi and Falcao while Real host struggling Espanyol.

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