With Borussia Dortmund surprisingly dropping points earlier in the day, the door was open for Bayern Munich - and they waltzed through. The Bundesliga title race is back on.
Bayern Munich 3-1 Schalke
(Bruma o.g. 12', Lewandowski 27', Gnabry 57' - Kutucu 25')
Bayern Munich are now just five points behind Borussia Dortmund after sealing a comfortable victory at home against Schalke.
An early goal from Robert Lewandowski, that was in truth an own goal after Jeffrey Bruma's attempted clearance fooled Ralf Fährmann, had Bayern in their usual driving seat.
But Schalke had a plan and having found their feet, they executed it perfectly. A superb counterattack saw Weston McKennie put through Ahmed Kutucu who finished with composure beyond his 18 years. Schalke were level, but it lasted no more than two minutes.
A mix-up at the back and Lewandowski pounced, this time making sure the goal would be his. McKennie nearly headed in another equalizer for Schalke, but it stayed level at the break.
Afterwards, Bruma nearly made amends but could send his header off the fingertips of Sven Ulreich and the post. Three minutes after that, the contest was decided when Serge Gnabry reacted quickest to head Lewandowski's acrobatic effort past Fährmann.
While there are a few games to go before Bayern host Dortmund. The game, on Matchday 28 at the start of April, is already looking like a title decider.
As it happened:
88' Bayern are going to see this one over the line. No late drama here. Alphonso Davies will come on before the final whistle though.
84' Again, Bayern think about scoring another one but can't get it right. Goretzka fires over. At the other end, Ulreich prevents a corner after a surging run by Harit nearly leads to something. This one is petering out a bit, dare I say.
75' CHANCES! Lewandowski should make it three for him, four for Bayern but he somehow curls it wide in the box. IN THE BOX! Moments later, Schalke invite him for a second bite of the cherry but Sane just gets the block in. Blimey.
72' Mark Uth is coming on (Kutucu off). Bayern are thinking about a fourth, just to be really sure, but so far that thought hasn't expanded to anything concrete. Dortmund's lead looks like it will be reduced to five.
68' Franck Ribery is about to come on. Reportedly disgruntled about the lack of playing time, the Frenchman shares a high five (but not a smile) with Kovac before replacing Coman. It's clear Coman is no longer the future but the present, but Ribery is not a bad option to have on the bench. Game is drifting a bit, as Schalke decide whether they have answers that might lead to a second goal.
64' You have to give it to Schalke. They've kept going. Amine Harit is on (Serdar) and the Royal Blues are trying to get something going, but it's hard in Munich, two goals down, with just over 20 minutes left.
57' GOAL! 3-1 Bayern Munich (Gnabry) Did I say this game was still on? Yeah, about that. Lewandowski chests it down and goes for a bicycle-kick. It doesn't work, but Gnabry is on hand to head the bouncing ball into the far corner. Game over? Maybe.
53' CHANCE! McKennie does superbly to surge forward, play the ball out wide left but Konoplyanka takes too long. Ulreich spills it, McKennie gets to the rebound but from a tight angle can only hit the post (offside though) and then the ball is cleared before Serdar can get to it. Moments later, Ulreich makes a fingertip save to keep out Bruma's header from a corner that shouldn't have been one in the first place. This game is still on.
51' Bayern flirt with a third, but can't land the proverbial kiss. Schalke are just trying to make sure they're not on the end of a big bill.
46' Second half is underway. Apologies for missing a key update in the first half by the way. Tedesco dragged off Sebastian Rudy after just 33 minutes because of how poorly the midfielder was playing. Omar Mascarell replaced him and has been tidier. Rudy went straight into the changing rooms. What a year it has been for him. Talk about a drop off...
Schalke will feel pretty good about the scoreline, but not the manner of goals conceded. All to play for but barring a huge drop off by the hosts, Bayern should be just fine.
45+1' James nearly whips in a third, but his free kick from the left goes over. That should be that for the first half, and what a half it has been!
43' Think Tedesco and his side will be happy to go in at the break just a goal down. They're just one decent break away from levelling. James has looked good. I wonder what was said, given how reportedly disgruntled he has been. Perhaps he never was. Anyway, Schalke patiently work but can't get the final ball right.
36' Schalke threaten again, but Ulreich makes a good save. Not long before Bayern are going for goal at the other end though. Coman gets a shot away from a central spot near the edge of the box, but it's deflected over. The score suggests the game is nicely in the balance, but Bayern would do well to give up the lead from here. That being said, one look at the defending in this game...
32' CHANCE! What an action-packed game this is. I thought the league would be all out of entertainment juice after the Dortmund game earlier, but no! Thiago throws a leg to deny McKennie's header from going in.
30' SAVE! James tries to curl one into the far corner, but Fährmann makes a strong save, stretching out to his right. All happening!
27' GOAL! 2-1 Bayern Munich (Lewandowski) Well, that lasted long. A poor pass later and Schalke are behind again. Rudy doesn't get to the pass, seems even to stop going for it, Bayern seize on the loose ball and then Lewandowski finishes coolly in front of goal. Great entertainment, but not great defending so far.
25' GOAL! 1-1 Schalke (Kutucu) What a goal, what a moment! Schalke break, McKennie plays a superb through ball and Ahemd Kutucu shows composure beyond his 18 years. Game on!
23' Domenico Tedesco urges calmness and it looks like his side have found it. That or Bayern have just paused for a moment, and given how the first 20 minutes have gone it seems the latter is more likely. Schalke are sitting so deep more trouble seems inevitable.
19' Bayern are up for it, make no mistake. A couple of dangerous crosses force Fährmann in action before Boateng threads the needle for Lewandowski who does the same for Gnabry, but Fährmann saves again. Bayern look good, really good.
12' GOAL! 1-0 Bayern Munich (Lewandowski) So much for that lack of creativity. James slips the perfect pass in between Schalke's defenders, Lewandowski squeezes in between and slips the ball into the net. Great play from the Colombian, and in the end a bit fortunate from Lewandowski who is in the right place but Jeffrey Bruma seems to get a big touch that helps send the ball home.
10' Schalke keep their position a bit better and force Bayern to be more creative with their possession. Since the chance, that hasn't been the case. Schalke are trying to send Kutucu long, a la Lukebakio for Düsseldorf in that memorable draw here in Munich months ago.
5' CHANCE! Bayern are nearly ahead. A cross falls in the box to James, and with the goal gaping it looks like the opener, but in comes the block from Oczipka and Schalke survive. Think they'll be playing this one on the break, don't you?
4' Bayern start on the front foot. Think they want to close the gap? I think so. Lewandowski gets to a near-post cross and flicks it goalwards, but Fährmann is there.
1' We are off!
- Good joke before kick off. Ralf Fährmann is asked whether he wants yellow or black for the coin toss. Naturally, as a Schalke man, he laughs and says it can't be yellow. Bayern to kick off...
- Asked before kick off about the Dortmund result, Kovac said he assumed there would be a boost to his team and the crowd. Will that be the case?
- TEAMS! Kovac makes some big calls tonight, dropping Süle not Hummels and letting James play in the 10 rather than the in-form Goretzka. Manuel Neuer is also still out injured so Ulreich continues. Schalke have opted to stuff the midfield a bit, and hope that youth academy talent Ahmed Kutucu can keep his scoring form going.
Bayern Munich XI: Ulreich - Alaba, Hummels, Boateng, Kimmich - Thiago, Goretzka - Gnabry, James, Coman - Lewandowski
Schalke XI: Fährmann - Caligiuri, Sane, Bruma, Oczipka - Serdar, Rudy, McKennie, Bentaleb - Kutucu, Konoplyanka
- Well that result in Dortmund will have raised a few eyebrows in Munich. With a win tonight, Niko Kovac's side can reduce the lead at the top to just five. Standing in their way are Schalke, who are in real need of points. What a season this is!