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Happy return for Ballack

BERLIN, August 23 – Germany captain Michael Ballack made his return to the Bundesliga on Sunday to help Bayer Leverkusen open their season with a 2-0 win at Dortmund while Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich set the early pace.

The 33-year-old is back in the Bundesliga after four years in the Premier League with Chelsea.

Despite running Leverkusen’s midfield, he played no hand in the two goals by Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta and Brazil’s Renato Augusto.

Leverkusen struck early as Barnetta netted in the 19th-minute before Renato Augusto struck the second just three minutes later to give Leverkusen the three points.

Ballack was ruled out of last month’s World Cup with an ankle injury and in his absence, Philipp Lahm captained Germany to third in South Africa, but it remains to be seen who will skipper the side for next month’s Euro 2012 games.

Earlier, VfB Stuttgart suffered a shock defeat by Mainz when their Tunisia striker Sami Allagui, who was making his debut, opened the scoring in the 26th-minute as he planted his shot in the left corner to stun Stuttgart.

Fellow debutant and striker Morten Rasmussen of Denmark then scored the second just two minutes after the half-time break as the home side took the three points.

On Saturday, Hoffenheim got their season off to a flying start when they destroyed Werder Bremen 4-1 to set the early pace.

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Bremen took the lead when captain Torsten Frings slotted home an early penalty after a Hoffenheim handball, but it was then all downhill for Werder.

Hoffenheim drew level when Senegal striker Demba Ba netted in the 20th minute, but things got surreal when Hoffenheim netted three goals in six minutes.

The rout started when teenager Peniel Mlapa slotted coolly past Bremen’s Germany goalkeeper Tim Wiese on 37 minutes.

Striker Vedad Ibisevic then made it 3-1 when Frings was robbed of possesion by Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo, sprinted downfield and put in a superb pass for his Bosnian team-mate to convert on 41 minutes.

Bremen’s misery was compounded just two minutes later when Sejad Salihovic curled in a free-kick which left the Werder goalkeeper stranded as it finished 4-1 at the break and stayed that way.

A late goal by ex-Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy gave Hamburg three points and sealed a 2-1 win over ten-man Schalke 04 on Saturday night after Royal Blues defender Benedikt Hoewedes was sent off after an hour.

Earlier, Bundesliga history was made in Cologne as Lebanon defender Youssef Mohamad earned the fastest ever red card when he was sent off just 92 seconds into the new season in the 3-1 defeat against newly-promoted Kaiserslautern.

In the other results, Moenchengladbach drew 1-1 at home to Nuremberg as Cameroon striker Mohamadou Idrissou equalised for the hosts.

Hanover beat Frankfurt 2-1 while newly-promoted St Pauli scored three goals in the last eight minutes to seal a 3-1 win at Freiburg.

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On Friday, ex-England manager Steve McClaren and his Wolfsburg side were denied a point as Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger latched on to Franck Ribery’s cross to seal a 2-1 win with seconds remaining.

Bayern made the perfect start as Germany’s Thomas Mueller — the top-scorer at last month’s World Cup — scored the opening goal after just nine minutes, only for Edin Dzeko to equalise after the break, before Schweini’s winner.

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