Borussia Dortmund were guaranteed to retain top spot in the Bundesliga for the winter break without kicking a ball when nearest rivals Mainz 05 slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
The result left Mainz seven points adrift of Dortmund with two games to go before the mid-season break. The leaders, on 37 points, could widen the gap against Nuremberg yesterday.
“We never really found a connection in the game,” Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel told reporters. “Our performance was too flat and too cheap.”
Champions Bayern Munich failed to gain ground and saw their seven-game unbeaten run broken when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Schalke 04 to drop to seventh place on 23 points.
The Bavarians were left ruing missed chances as Schalke struck twice after the break through Jose Manuel Jurado and Benedikt Hoewedes to lift last season’s runners up to 16 points.
Schalke and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was man of the match, spectacularly denying Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos in the first half.
Schweinsteiger also hit the bar before the break.
“It is not allowed for us to lose if we play like that,” Bayern coach Louis van Gaal said. “You do need to score if you want to win and if you miss these chances then there is no way you can win.”
Mainz were lackluster against Frankfurt, but the home side had to wait until the 84th minute to secure the winner. Fanis Gekas, the Bundesliga’s top scorer, converted a penalty awarded for handball — his 13th goal in 14 games.
Frankfurt, who move up to eighth on 23 points, had taken a deserved lead in the 35th minute when Mainz defenders fumbled inside the box and the central defender Marco Russ volleyed in from 10m.
Turkey international Halil Altintop fouled Marcel Risse in the box three minutes before half-time, allowing Mainz’s Andre Schuerrle to level from the penalty spot for his seventh goal of the season.
Hanover 96 scored two in as many minutes to come from behind in a 2-1 victory over 10-man Borussia Moenchengladbach that took Hanover up to third in the table on 28 points.
Mike Hanke equalized for Hanover in the 73rd minute and Ivory Coast’s Didier Ya Konan scored the winner moments later to leave Gladbach, who had taken a 19th minute lead through American Michael Bradley, bottom on 10 points.
Gladbach’s Raul Bobadilla was sent off in the 43rd minute.
VfB Stuttgart failed to make their extra man count in a 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim, who had defender Isaac Vorsah sent off with a straight red card just before the break.
Hamburg SV slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Freiburg courtesy of Papiss Demba Cisse’s 11th goal of the season, to drop to ninth on 21 points, while VfL Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen both missed penalties in their 0-0 draw.