Raffael helps Gladbach clinch top-three place

Bremen, Germany (SportsNetwork.com) - Monchengladbach secured an automatic place in the Champions League for next season as Raffael scored a second-half brace to help the side to a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen on Saturday.

The win keeps Gladbach five points clear of fourth-place Bayer Leverkusen, which is assured of fourth place and a spot in the Champions League qualifying round, while the club is just two points back of second-place Wolfsburg.

Raffael broke a scoreless deadlock in the 53rd minute when Granit Xhaka had a shot blocked that redirected into the path of Max Kruse. He then slid the ball to Raffael at the right post and the forward made no mistake from a few yards.

Thorgan Hazard went close with a shot in the 82nd minute as the visitors attempted to double their lead, but Raffael wrapped up the points a few minutes later when he took a pass from Andre Hahn and beat goalkeeper Koen Casteels.

Wolfsburg remained two points clear of Gladbach after notching a 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund thanks to a goal in the 49th minute from Naldo after Daniel Caligiuri and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang traded goals in the opening 11 minutes.

The relegation battle continues to take shape as Stuttgart climbed off the bottom of the league and into the relegation playoff spot with a vital 2-1 win over Hamburg.

Stuttgart fell behind in the 12th minute to a goal from Gojko Kacar, but Christian Gentner and Martin Harnik replied before halftime to put Stuttgart in front, and the club held on to move to within one point of safety.

Hamburg drops to 17th with the defeat, while Paderborn is now propping up the table after losing 1-0 at Schalke to an own goal from Uwe Huenemeier in the 88th minute.

Hannover and Freiburg both recorded big wins to stay above the bottom three with one game to play as Hannover used a pair of goals from Lars Stindl to top Augsburg, 2-1.

Freiburg knocked off champions Bayern Munich, 2-1, with former Bayern player Nils Petersen netting the winning goal in the 89th minute.

Leverkusen downed Hoffenheim, 2-0, with goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Stefan Kiessling, while Mainz topped Cologne, 2-0, and Hertha Berlin finished in a 0-0 draw with Eintracht.