Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez claimed a hat-trick as an early Christmas present in an eight-goal thriller on Sunday as the German champions routed struggling VfB Stuttgart 5-3 at home.
It was the Germany star’s second Bundesliga hat-trick of the season as he capitalized on a poor Stuttgart defense to leave him with 12 league goals and 19 matches in all competitions for Bayern.
All five of Bayern’s goals — especially Gomez’s three — came from mistakes in the Stuttgart defense as coach Bruno Labbadia had a baptism of fire in his first league game in charge since taking over from Jens Keller last weekend.
Labbadia inherits a side second from bottom and low on moral, but he acknowledged he has a relegation battle on his hands.
“The situation is difficult. There has never been such a situation like it at this club,” he said as his side were booed off by their fans. “You can tell that the environment is not good, but the fight to avoid relegation is on.”
In contrast, Bayern played the sort of soccer worthy of the defending champions.
“It is a shame we conceded the three goals,” Bayern’s Dutch coach Louis van Gaal said after the rout. “We have to improve that.”
Despite the win, Bayern remain 14 points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, who are 10 points clear of second-placed FSV Mainz 05, and van Gaal insists the gap is too far to bridge as the Bundesliga breaks for winter.
“We could make up four points behind if we were in second place, but Dortmund are already too far ahead,” said van Gaal, whose side face VfL Wolfsburg in their next league game on Jan. 15.
Gomez opened the scoring with a well-taken strike on 31 minutes after Bayern’s Thomas Mueller latched onto a mistake in midfield and he then set up his Germany teammate when Mueller netted Munich’s second just five minutes later.
France midfielder Franck Ribery scored a superb individual effort when he took on the defense, before unleashing an unstoppable shot on 43 minutes and it stayed 3-0 at the break.
Stuttgart fought back when second-half substitute striker Martin Harnik pulled a goal back for the hosts on 50 minutes, but Gomez struck twice in two minutes to complete his hat-trick just five minutes later.
Harnick grabbed a second, before Germany’s Christian Gentner made it 5-3 with 20 minutes remaining.
Earlier, Germany striker Patrick Helmes came off Bayer Leverkusen’s bench to score the late equalizer that sealed a 2-2 draw with SC Freiburg to keep his side third.
The result leaves Freiburg sixth.