Bayern Munich completed their 50th Bundesliga match without defeat when they beat Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-1 on Saturday to extend their lead to an almost embarrassing 23 points.
The imperious Bavarians, who have won their past 17 league games, need two more wins to wrap up the title and could even clinch it next week, with eight matches to spare, if they beat FSV Mainz 05, and Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 fail to win.
Second-placed Dortmund gave Bayern a helping hand when they were beaten 2-1 at home by 10-man Borussia Moenchengladbach.
At the other end, Huub Stevens was denied a winning start as VfB Stuttgart’s third coach of the season when his relegation-threatened side missed a penalty and conceded a late goal in a 1-1 draw at Werder Bremen.
Stuttgart, who rushed in Stevens after firing Thomas Schneider on Sunday last week, extended their winless run to 10 matches, including eight defeats, as they remained perilously close to the drop zone.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, who have the league’s third-best attack and worst defense, provided their usual dose of drama by missing a penalty, going 2-0 ahead and then leaking three goals in an eight-minute second-half spell on their way to a 4-2 home defeat by FSV Mainz 05.
After scoring 19 goals in their previous four Bundesliga games, Bayern found Leverkusen a tougher nut to crack and could have even gone behind when Stefan Kiessling set Son Heung-min free, only for the South Korean to shoot wide.
Although they lacked spark, Bayern broke through a minute before halftime, when Bundesliga top scorer Mario Mandzukic out jumped his marker to head in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s cross for his 17th goal of the season.
Schweinsteiger floated in a 30m free kick in the 52nd minute for the second and Stefan Kiessling scored a late consolation for Leverkusen, who are the last team to beat Bayern in the league when they won 2-1 in October 2012.
Bayern have 71 points from 25 games, while Dortmund are on 48 and Schalke 47 with nine games each to play.
“It’s not important when we win the league, it’s important to keep our performances levels high,” Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said.
“We want to keep winning and stay in our rhythm in order to do well in each competition,” said forward Thomas Mueller, whose side are also in the Champions League quarter-finals and German Cup semi-finals.
“We controlled the game from the start, even if we were missing a bit of spark going forward,” he said.
A fortuitous finish by Raffael and some neat footwork by Max Kruse gave Moenchengladbach a 2-0 halftime lead at Dortmund and they held on despite having Havard Nordtveit sent off with 20 minutes left.
Substitute Milos Jojic’s 77th minute goal with a deflected shot was all that Dortmund could muster.
Stuttgart did more than enough to give Stevens a winning debut before being forced to settle for a point at Bremen.
They won a penalty late in the first half when Assani Lukimya handled, only for Martin Harnik, who took responsibility after Christian Gentner missed in last week’s 2-2 draw at home to Eintracht Braunschweig, to fire against the post.
Georg Niedermeier put Stuttgart ahead 10 minutes after the restart and they took control of the game, but Bremen conjured an equalizer with 11 minutes left when Aaron Hunt put a free kick over the wall from the edge of the area.
Stuttgart are 15th with 21 points, one ahead of Hamburg SV, who were to host Nuremberg yesterday, in the relegation playoff spot. SC Freiburg, who are 17th with 19 points, were to visit Eintracht Frankfurt yesterday.
Hoffenheim missed an early penalty through Sejad Salihovic, before Eugen Polanksi and Roberto Firmino scored early in the second half to put them 2-0 ahead.
Mainz hit back when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Benedikt Saller and Shinji Okazaki scored in an eight-minute spell before Okazaki added a fourth in stoppage time. Hoffenheim’s 25 games have produced 110 goals, 54 for and 56 against.
Bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig held VfL Wolfsburg 1-1 at home while Hannover 96 won 3-0 at Hertha BSC.