Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich effortlessly cruised to a 1-0 victory at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Sunday courtesy of a Mario Gomez goal that kept them on course for the title with a 17-point advantage at the top.
Gomez, making a rare start in place of the team’s top scorer, Mario Mandzukic, scored the only goal of a lackluster game when he flicked in a Franck Ribery header in the 38th minute as Bayern grabbed their 11th away win this season and their seventh straight victory this year.
The Bavarians, who made five changes to the team that ousted holders Borussia Dortmund from the DFB Pokal on Wednesday last week, lacked pace in attack, but were rarely threatened by lowly Hoffenheim.
Bayern’s 20th win in 24 league games lifted them to 63 points, with champions Dortmund second on 46.
“It was a laborious victory. It was not sparkling and it was not brilliant, but even for this you get three points,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes told reporters. “It was tough because our opponents have their backs to the wall.”
Bayern were without winger Arjen Robben, who was again ruled out with a muscle injury, and Hoffenheim briefly threatened in the opening stages with two long-range efforts from Daniel Williams.
The visitors gradually found their rhythm and Gomez rounded off a lightning-quick move that started with Hoffenheim losing possession in midfield to give Bayern the lead.
Bayern were playing well below par, but had chances to extend their lead in the second half.
Bastian Schweinsteiger twice rattled the woodwork with free-kicks and David Alaba drew a spectacular late save from Hoffenheim goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
Hoffenheim, 17th and five points below the relegation playoff spot, defended bravely throughout, but were toothless up front.
Also on Sunday, FSV Mainz 05 missed the chance to move back into European contention with a 1-1 draw at Fortuna Duesseldorf to stay eighth on 34 points.