Bayern cast aside their recent Bundesliga travails on Saturday to crush Hoffenheim 7-1 at the Allianz Arena. And Dortmund could only manage a goalless draw against Augsburg, allowing Bayern to narrow the gap at the top.
Fussball 1. Bundesliga 25. Spieltag, FC Bayern Muenchen gegen TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in Allianz-Arena Muenchen
Hoffenheim have never beaten the Bavarian super-club in the Bundesliga, and it showed on Saturday. The Hoffenheimers displayed a lack of belief from the start, leaving Bayern to go 5-0 up after only 35 minutes, with both Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben notching up two goals.
The Bavarians were in a hurry, striking early when Mario Gomez swooped in to blast home a rebounded shot within two minutes.
Then Arjen Robben converted a penalty 10 minutes later after Philipp Lahm was tripped in the penalty area - then the flying Dutchman sprung the offside trap in the 28th minute, skipping neatly past the thoroughly demoralized keeper Tom Starke before tapping the ball into an empty net.
To split Robben's first-half double, Toni Kroos knocked in a low, rather speculative long-range effort after Hoffenheim's defense left him with plenty of time to pick his spot. Gomez rounded out the first half haul as he had started it, hammering in a free header with the minimum of fuss.
Gomez waited only three minutes into the second half to complete his hat-trick with another close-range header - again untroubled by defenders - from a corner. Gomez admitted in a recent interview that pressure had been getting to the team in the last few games. It seems there's nothing better for calming the nerves than an accommodating defense like Hoffenheim's.
Franck Ribery got in on the fun when a great through ball from Robben left him free to outflank the keeper and slot in the ball from a tight angle. As if in mockery, even Hoffenheim's consolation goal was scored by Bayern too - defender Luiz Gustavo, attempting to knock the ball from Ryan Babel's feet only succeeded in hitting it neatly past his own keeper Manuel Neuer.
"I had noticed that things were happening throughout the week in training and we wanted to switch gears," delighted Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes told reporters afterwards.
"We played ourselves into a trance and the goals were absolutely delicious," he added. "The difference with our game against Leverkusen was that we played well for 90 minutes and we used our goal chances better."
Meanwhile, champions Dortmund endured a frustrating nail-biter in Augsburg in the late game on Saturday, a huge contrast to their 4-0 drubbing of the Bundesliga debutants in the reverse fixture late last year.
The match ended 0-0, extending Dortmund's unbeaten run to 19 Bundesliga games - the longest run of its kind in Germany's top league.
But Jürgen Klopp's team will take little comfort from the record, because the result allowed Bayern to close the gap at the top to five points - though they remain firm favorites to win the title.
Augsburg - ranked 15 thanks to Berlin's loss - are desperately fighting to stave off relegation and made life difficult for the league leaders from the beginning - the game was open and entertaining, despite the parsimonious score-line.
While Dortmund dominated midfield, they completed more than twice as many passes as their opponents, and their star trio Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski, and Lukasz Piszczek created more clear openings in front of goal, but the Augsburgers remained a counter-attacking threat throughout.
"It's a very, very bad pitch, especially around the goal-mouth. You're really just glad you come off the pitch without twisting your knee or tearing a ligament," Dortmund goalkeeper told broadcaster Sky after the match. But he admitted the champions were below their best.
"We might have had a bit more luck," added Klopp. "But we only a deserved a draw for this game."
Leverkusen down in the dumps
Gomez's first was part of a mini-hailstorm of early goals on Saturday, when three nets rattled before the first two minutes were up.
One of them went to Leverkusen, who recovered instantly from their Champions League humiliation in Barcelona by taking the lead over Wolfsburg after 61 seconds. Stefan Kiessling took a classic poacher's goal after Andre Schürrle's storming run into the box gave him a simple tap in.
But it was not to last for Leverkusen. The Wolves, struggling in mid-table limbo, fought back to win 3-2, equalizing in the 31st minute through Patrick Helmes, who was completely ignored by the Leverkusen defense and nodded in a far-post header. Then, Ashkan Dejagah struck a shot straight at Leverkusen goalie Bernd Leno, who looked terrible as he slapped the ball into the net over his head.
Wolfsburg added a third in the second half, when unfortunate Leverkusen left back Michal Kadlec could not avoid running into a Dejagah cross from the right and knocking it in off a post. Leverkusen made it tight at the end, when Eren Dediyok pulled one back, and then Karim Bellarabi knocked one past the far post.
Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt was not amused.
"We should have been 3-0 up after the first quarter of an hour, then it would have been all over," he said afterwards. "Then we had five injuries, adjustments, too much disorder and no more stability."
Quickest goal of the season
Striker Nicolai Müller gave Mainz the lead over Nuremberg even earlier than Gomez and Kiessling, knocking in an accomplished close-range strike with 55 seconds on the clock - the fastest goal this season so far. Mainz ended up winning 2-1.
Prolific Egyptian striker Mohamed Zidan added a second in the 22th minute when his free-kick from the left swung across the goal, missing everyone and everything except the far post, where it bounced across the line despite goalkeeper Raphael Schäfer's attempt to claw it out.
Daniel Didavi got one back for Nuremberg in the 64th minute, and the Bavarians pressurized Mainz throughout the second half. The home side were rattled, and later Hungarian Mainzer Adam Szalai got sent off.
The result ended Nuremberg's run of good form.
Mönchengladbach, who missed a chance to reach second place last week, could not break down lowly Freiburg at home. Gladbach dominated the match, but could muster almost nothing in the final third and the game ended in a frustrating 0-0 draw.
Freiburg delayed proceedings where they could, but also limited the Gladbach team, who are left struggling to maintain their grip on a Champions League place.
Berlin's misery continues in bizarre game
Hertha Berlin's promised recovery under Otto Rehhagel is proving slow and painful, and their trip to Cologne ended in a disappointing 1-0 defeat. Cologne took the lead in the 36th minute when Christian Clemens swept a loose ball into the roof of the net.
The Berliners scrapped more decisively in the second half when the game took a more bizarre turn. After Cologne midfielder Mato Jajalo had already seen a red card for an ugly, but hardly dangerous tackle, Hertha defender Levan Kobiashvili was sent off for a second yellow. In the resulting player fracas, Lukas Podolski was harshly shown a red card for provoking and then pushing away a Berlin player.
The farcical scenes left 10 Berliners facing nine Cologners to see out the match, but Hertha's toothlessness was one of the few things to stay on the pitch, and Cologne were able to hang on.
"There's no point looking back," said Rehhagel afterwards. "We have to fight, fight, fight."
Following the game, Cologne announced that it would part company with Director of Sport Volker Finke, with an announcement about the reason for the decision to be made on Sunday morning.
On Sunday, fourth-placed Schalke will expect to beat Hamburg - languishing in 13th - at home, while Bremen try to hold off Hanover, lurking just a place below them in 7th. Schalke now have an excellent chance to pile the pressure on Gladbach in third.
Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Zulfikar Abbany