Bayern Munich need just three points from their last four games to secure their 19th Bundesliga title after beating Bochum 3-1 on Saturday. Nearest rivals Schalke were hammered 4-1 in Berlin, ending their challenge.
Michael Ballack celebrates as Bayern's second goal sinks Bochum
Bayern Munich need just three points to clinch a 19th German championship after a 3-1 triumph over ten-man VfL Bochum on Saturday helped Felix Magath's side power nine points clear at the summit. Bayern now require just one win from their remaining four fixtures this season to seal the Bundesliga crown after closest rivals Schalke 04 crashed to a 4-1 defeat at Hertha Berlin.
"It is too early to celebrate," insisted Magath. "I do not get my birthday congratulations on July 24." Magath turns 52 on July 26. "We want to wrap up the championship as soon as possible," added Magath. "A win over Kaiserslautern next week would be nice."
Peruvian star Claudio Pizarro put hosts Bayern in front after just nine minutes with his 10th goal of the season. Bochum pressed the self-destruct button six minutes later with goalkeeper Rein van Duijnhoven sent off for handling outside the area.
Dutch international Roy Makaay struck a goal-bound shot and compatriot van Duijnhoven saved brilliantly with his left hand but he was ten meters outside of his penalty area and subsequently red-carded.
"We were never going to turn the game with just ten men on the pitch," admitted Bochum manager Peter Neururer.
Goals from Ballack and Makaay seal victory
German international Michael Ballack doubled Munich's lead after 26 minutes but Bochum pulled one back with a Filip Tapalovic header. But Makaay quashed any fears of a comeback with a ruthless finish on 63 minutes as Bayern cruised to victory.
Bochum are two points from safety after Borussia Monchengladbach shared a 0-0 draw with FC Nuremberg on Sunday.
Five weeks ago Schalke were three points ahead of Bayern at the summit but four defeats in five games now sees them nine points adrift of their arch rivals. Hertha became their latest conquerors with Brazilian sensation Marcelinho scoring twice as Schalke lost 4-1 in the capital.
"We are second and a lot of teams would like to be in our position," said Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick. "I told the players that it is up to them whether they play in the Champions League or UEFA Cup next season."
Mother's pride lifts Berlin to new heights
Since his mother arrived from Brazil Marcelinho can not stop scoring and his Schalke double raised his season's tally to 17 goals. "If he continues to score I will pay for his mother to stay here," said team-mate Arne Friedrich.
While Marcelinho masterminded Schalke's downfall they also have themselves to blame with Danish international Christian Poulsen sent off after 21 minutes for picking up two bookings inside five minutes.
After threatening to win the title this season Schalke are now starting to sweat on a Champions League spot with VfB Stuttgart one point behind in third and Hertha three points adrift.
Stuttgart blow chance to grab second
Stuttgart could have leapfrogged Schalke into second but played out a scoreless home draw with VfL Wolfsburg at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium.
"We have four cup finals now until the end of the season," said Stuttgart coach Matthias Sammer. "We did not do enough today and I am not pleased."
UEFA Cup battles rage as season closes
Reigning champions Werder Bremen missed the chance to close in on Stuttgart with a 2-1 reverse at Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. The double winners are now five points behind Stuttgart and look set to play in the UEFA Cup next season.
SV Hamburg moved level on points with Bremen courtesy of a 3-0 victory over local rivals Hansa Rostock. Emile Mpenza (49) and Collin Benjamin (61) put Hamburg in the driving seat and Japanese international Naohiro Takahara scored in the 64th minute to cap a fine display.
Freiburg wave goodbye to the top division
Down at the bottom SC Freiburg became the first team to be relegated after a 3-1 defeat at Arminia Bielefeld. Freiburg have won a miserly three games all season and must now prepare for the German second division next season.