League leaders Bayern Munich demolished Hamburg SV 9-2 with four goals from striker Claudio Pizarro and two from Arjen Robben on Saturday to put one hand on the Bundesliga trophy with seven games to play.
With a dazzling performance that will act as a warning to Juventus ahead of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tomorrow, Bayern, resting several key players, could have celebrated their 23rd German title were it not for Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski.
The Poland striker scored a late winner earlier on Saturday to give the champions a narrow 2-1 victory at VfB Stuttgart and put Bayern’s title champagne on ice for at least another week.
However, with a 20-point lead over second-placed Dortmund the Bavarians look set to lift their 22nd Bundesliga trophy.
“We played textbook football at times today and the title cannot really slip away any more,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes told reporters. “It was important to fill up on confidence, but Tuesday’s game will be different, with Juve being a top European team and much more aggressive.”
For Hamburg, it equaled their heaviest defeat in the Bundesliga’s 50 years and put a dent in their hopes of claiming a European spot.
“I have not experienced this as a coach before,” Hamburg’s Thorsten Fink said. “I do not have an explanation for this 9-2. Everyone has to be self-critical, both team and coach.”
Bayern unleashed one attack after another from the start, with Xherdan Shaqiri opening their account with a low drive in the fifth minute.
Bastian Schweinsteiger headed in their second, before Pizarro volleyed in from close range and Robben added another in a scintillating 33-minute spell.
Peruvian Pizarro, the Bundesliga’s all-time top foreign scorer, got his second goal on the stroke of halftime and completed his hat-trick eight minutes after the restart with a superb back-heel, before Dutchman Robben was again on target a minute later.
Third-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen kept on course for the Champions League with a 4-1 win over Fortuna Duesseldorf.
Two goals apiece from Stefan Kiessling and Andre Schuerrle left them four points behind Dortmund.
Schalke 04 leapfrogged into fourth place after leaving it late to beat relegation-threatened TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 3-0 with three goals in the final 19 minutes.
SC Freiburg also improved their European chances, easing past rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-0 to move into seventh place on 39.
Max Kruse, linked with a move to ’Gladbach next season, struck twice in Freiburg’s first win in five matches.
In Stuttgart, early substitute Lukasz Piszczek headed a Marco Reus free-kick past goalkeeper Sven Ulreich for Borussia Dortmund’s opener in the 29th minute.
Stuttgart worked their way back into the game and Alexandru Maxim drew them level with a low drive in the 63rd minute. The hosts were lucky to have the goal awarded after Antonio Ruediger stepped well inside the pitch with a throw-in that led to the goal.
Stuttgart then had Georg Niedermeier sent off for a second booking after a rough challenge on Mario Goetze in the 68th minute and Dortmund made the extra man count when rightback Piszczek fed Lewandowski for the tap-in.
In other matches on Saturday, Hannover 96 won 2-0 at third-from-bottom Augsburg, while FSV Mainz 05 were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Werder Bremen.
Additional reporting by staff writer