VIDEO

Football: 'Ghost goal' helps Bayer Leverkusen spirit away top spot in Germany

Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling (second from left) is congratulated by teammates (from left) Sidney Sam, Emir Spahic and Roberto Hilbert after the referee decided that he had scored Leverkusen's second goal against Hoffenheim on Saturday, Oct 19,
Bayer Leverkusen's Stefan Kiessling (second from left) is congratulated by teammates (from left) Sidney Sam, Emir Spahic and Roberto Hilbert after the referee decided that he had scored Leverkusen's second goal against Hoffenheim on Saturday, Oct 19, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP

BERLIN (AFP) - Bayer Leverkusen snatched top spot in the Bundesliga on Saturday but only after a "ghost goal" allowed them to beat Hoffenheim 2-1.

Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling looked to have headed wide in the 70th minute and even thrust his arms into the air in frustration at his miss.

But the ball then crept through a small hole in the side netting of the Hoffenheim goal.

The referee awarded the goal despite the angry protests of Hoffenheim, who were already trailing 1-0 at the time to Sidney Sam's 26th minute opener.

Gonzalo Castro had created the goal for Sam, who now has seven for the season.

After Kiessling's controversial goal, Hoffenheim's sense of injustice deepened further when Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno saved a Roberto Firmino penalty in the 83rd minute.

Sven Schipplock headed home a consolation for Hoffenheim with two minutes remaining.

Kiessling is not the first player to score a goal that never was in Germany.

On April 23, 1994, Bayern Munich defender Thomas Helmer also benefited despite the ball not going into the goal in a 2-1 win over Nuremberg.

After Nuremburg lodged a complaint, the German federation ordered the match to be replayed - and Bayern won 5-0.

Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol believes the 1994 incident has set a precedent for a replay of Saturday's game.

"I think we are going to have to re-examine the TV pictures," said Gisdol.

"You cannot replay a match just for Bayern and not for Hoffenheim." Kiessling admitted he had been left stunned by the incident.

"Everyone started rushing towards me. What could I do?" he told Sky.

"Honestly, I couldn't really judge what I saw but when Hoffenheim pointed to the hole in the net, I had an inkling."

Referee Felix Brych stood by his decision.

"I had a little doubt, but the reaction of the players was clear," said the referee.

"I checked with Kiessling. But no-one, not even him said that it wasn't a goal. The ball was in the net and for everyone on the pitch it was a legitimate goal."

Leverkusen, on 22 points, now have a two-point lead over Bayern Munich, who can reclaim top spot with a win over Mainz on Saturday.

It was Leverkusen's seventh Bundesliga win of the season and gave the team coached by Sami Hyypia a timely boost ahead of their Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday.