Bayern Munich continued their seemingly relentless march toward a 25th German title as Franck Ribery’s 100th goal for the Bundesliga leaders secured Saturday’s 1-0 win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Pep Guardiola’s side remain seven points clear of nearest challengers VfL Wolfsburg after defeating Leverkusen, who remain the last team to beat Bayern at the Allianz Arena, back in October 2012.
The visitors threatened after four minutes when Juan Bernat was forced to clear off the line after Karim Bellarabi pounced on a rare mistake, but Bayern took the lead when winger Ribery volleyed home from a corner on 51 minutes to claim his 100th competitive goal for the club in all competitions on his 186th league appearance — the most for a French player in the Bundesliga.
It was an off-key performance from Bayern, who managed just two first-half shots, as they began a busy period of five matches in 14 days, including Wednesday’s final UEFA Champions League group game at home to CSKA Moscow.
“It was important for the team to get the win, especially before our Champions League game at home and three Bundesliga games in quick succession,” Ribery said. “It won’t be easy, but that was a good start.”
Leverkusen were lucky to finish with 11 men after Bellarabi hacked down Sebastian Rode in the dying stages, but was only shown a yellow card.
Roger Schmidt’s side drop to fourth in the table ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League clash at SL Benfica.
Earlier, second-placed Wolfsburg came from behind to claim a 3-1 win at Lower Saxony rivals Hannover 96 to briefly trim Bayern’s lead to four points.
However, VfL Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking gave a grumpy reply when asked about his side’s supposed role as “Bayern hunters.”
“We aren’t ‘Bayern hunters,’ I don’t have to emphasize that every week, do I?” Hecking said, rejecting the German media’s tag for the Volkswagen-backed club. “Bayern are the superior team and they’d need to play with seven men each week for us to have a chance to catch them.”
Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne gave Wolfsburg a fourth-minute lead in the derby, before Spaniard Joselu leveled for Hannover with a header, but both Wolfsburg’s second-half replacements scored within minutes of coming on to seal the win.
Dutch striker Bas Dost headed home his first goal of the season just two minutes after replacing Ivica Olic and Germany under-21 forward Maximilian Arnold secured the three points when he netted on 85 minutes.
Meanwhile, Roberto di Matteo’s Schalke 04 warmed-up for Wednesday’s must-win Champions League clash at Slovenia’s NK Maribor with a 4-0 mauling of VfB Stuttgart as Cameroon striker Eric Choupo-Moting claimed a hat-trick in exactly an hour.
The result moves Schalke up to fourth in the table, while Huub Stevens’ Stuttgart drop to the bottom on goal-difference.
Schalke must win at Maribor and hope Portugal’s Sporting lose at Chelsea on Wednesday to join Bayern, Borussia Dortmund and Leverkusen in the round-of-16 of the Champions League.
Having started his second stint at Stuttgart last month after replacing Armin Veh with a 4-1 hammering of SC Freiburg, the result showed Dutchman Stevens he has his work cut out to keep VfB up. They have won just three times in their first 14 matches.
Borussia Moenchengladbach, fifth, ended their three-match losing streak in the top flight with a 3-2 win over Hertha BSC, who dropped to 15th.
Augsburg went third for the first time in their history with a 2-1 win at Cologne, while Freiburg stayed just above the relegation places with a 1-1 draw at SC Paderborn 07.
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