Bundesliga champions elect Borussia Dortmund beat Cologne 1-0, though the final score didn't reflect their dominance. Second-placed Leverkusen can regain ground with a weekend win, but they trail by 15 points.
Lewandowski's sixth league goal of the season sealed the win
Borussia Dortmund stretched their league lead to a seemingly insurmountable 15 points on Friday, March 4, beating visitors Cologne by one goal to nil.
Chasing their first title since 2002, Germany's second most successful side managed just one goal through Polish attacker Robert Lewandowski, shortly before the half-time break.
Cologne keeper Michael Rensing, however, made a string of stunning saves, and the hosts hit the woodwork on a couple of occasions in a game they might have won by a far grander margin.
Cologne's goalie Michael Rensing was - almost - unbeatable
"This must be one of the most deserved 1-0 wins ever," Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp told reporters after the match. "My players worked non-stop for the full 90 minutes, and we created many chances."
Klopp, still beaming from his side's historic 3-1 win away to Bayern Munich last weekend, also found time to single out the goal-scorer.
"Robert Lewandowski is a great guy, I am sincerely pleased for him that he scored the winner," the coach said of the Polish attacker, who has become a more integral part of the team since the injury to Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa.
Cologne's best chance fell to Milivoje Novakovic early in the second half; the striker raced clear of the hosts' defenders but then shot wide from close range.
Yet Dortmund were the superior side throughout and continued to push forward, with both Lucas Barrios and Nuri Sahin denied by the crossbar in the dying minutes of the match.
Crunch time for Bayern and van Gaal
Van Gaal (left) needs to bounce back from last weekend's Dortmund defeat
Dortmund now have a fifteen point advantage over second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who could claw some points back with a home win against relegation-threatened Wolfsburg in Saturday's evening fixture.
The Bundesliga's third and fourth-placed sides, Hanover and Bayern Munich, also lock horns on Saturday. On paper, Bayern are clear favorites despite being two points behind Hanover in the league, but it's a hugely important game for the club and its coach.
Louis van Gaal has admitted he could lose his job at Bayern if the side record their third straight defeat against Hanover. Defeat against Dortmund last Saturday effectively eradicated any enduring dreams of Bayern retaining their German league title, and Schalke knocked the German Cup holders out of that competition in a semi-final match on Wednesday.
In the day's other Bundesliga games, strugglers Stuttgart host Schalke, Kaiserslautern - winless in seven matches - travel to goal-starved Frankfurt, rock-bottom Borussia Mönchengladbach host European hopefuls Hoffenheim, and on-form Nuremberg entertain mid-table St. Pauli.
Author: Mark Hallam (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac