Xabi Alonso’s Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday took control of the Bundesliga title race, thoroughly outclassing Bayern Munich in a 3-0 home win to go five points clear at the top of the table.
Munich-born defender Josip Stanisic, on loan from Bayern, scored the opener in the 18th minute and Alex Grimaldo added another early in the second half. Jeremie Frimpong grabbed a third in stoppage-time, scoring on the counter after Manuel Neuer came up for a Bayern corner, with Leverkusen rounding off an emphatic victory in style as they chase the club’s first German title.
Bayern had few answers against an energetic and skilful Leverkusen side, fluent in attack, and kept tight control of star striker Harry Kane in defense.
With 13 games remaining this season, five-time runners-up Leverkusen now have a golden chance to break Bayern’s 11-year reign in the Bundesliga and shed their unwanted “Neverkusen” moniker.
“From minute one until minute 90, we had our foot on the pedal,” Leverkusen midfielder Robert Andrich told Sky.
Alonso told reporters: “When you have players willing to make sacrifices, the team gets better.”
A visibly frustrated Thomas Mueller lamented Bayern’s dismal performance.
“Leverkusen were taking risks, looking for solutions and playing football,” he said. “We’re playing from A to B, B to C — and nobody plays freely or takes risks.”
Bayern came into the game under an unusual amount of pressure, despite sitting just two points behind Leverkusen.
The game was delayed by 10 minutes due to protests against the German soccer association’s decision to allow increased foreign investment, with fans throwing tennis balls and other objects onto the pitch.
Despite the delay, Leverkusen showed none of the nerves seen among recent challengers for Bayern’s crown, sticking to their high-risk, high-reward approach, despite a tight press from the visitors.
Amine Adli had a half-chance and blasted straight at Neuer early, but it would be Stanisic who gave Leverkusen the lead against his parent club.
Stanisic beat new Bayern fullback Sacha Boey and tapped in a fine Andrich assist from close range.
Winners all 16 times they have taken the lead this season, the goal foreshadowed a period of Leverkusen dominance reminiscent of their best under Alonso, with Florian Wirtz and Jonathan Tah forcing last-ditch stops.
Not content to protect their lead, Leverkusen came out firing after halftime and soon doubled their lead. Summer signing Grimaldo collected Nathan Tella’s pass and blasted past Neuer five minutes into the second half.
With the clock winding down, Neuer went up for a Bayern corner, allowing Leverkusen wingback Frimpong to run the length of the pitch to seal a statement win.
Elsewhere, RB Leipzig’s hopes of closing in on the UEFA Champions League places suffered a blow, with striker Lois Openda missing a late penalty in a 2-2 draw at Augsburg.
Augsburg’s Phillip Tietz gave the hosts the lead late in the first half with a clean volley, but Openda headed Leipzig level shortly after, his 15th goal of the season.
Slovenian Benjamin Sesko produced a carbon copy of Openda’s header to put Leipzig ahead, but Ermedin Demirovic pulled Augsburg back on level terms, blasting in with 30 minutes remaining.
Openda then had the chance to win it for Leipzig, but his spot-kick was kept out by Finn Dahmen.
Union Berlin won 1-0 at home to VfL Wolfsburg in a match delayed by almost an hour due to protests, Danilho Doekhi heading in the only goal in the 25th minute of first-half stoppage-time.
Elsewhere, Werder Bremen lost 2-1 at home to Heidenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt drew 1-1 with VfL Bochum and Borussia Moenchengladbach and SV Darmstadt 98 played out a goalless draw.
Additional reporting by staff writer
Taiwanese infielder Yu Chang (張育成) has signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and is invited to the team’s spring training camp, the team announced Tuesday. The 28-year-old, who reported to the club’s spring training facility on Tuesday, told MLB.com he had received minor league offers from 10 teams, but signed with the Rays because of the positive experience he had on the team in 2022. “I feel like people make me comfortable here -- not only like coaches, [but the] teammates and everyone here,” he told the site. Chang, who made his MLB debut in 2019, played with the
Coco Gauff on Wednesday said that a heated exchange with the chair umpire midway through her match with Karolina Pliskova had spurred her on to complete a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory and advance to the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. The US Open champion lost the first set, but was leading 4-2 in the second when her first serve at deuce, which Pliskova returned into the net, was called out. The American challenged the call and her review was successful, but instead of awarding Gauff the point French chair umpire Pierre Bacchi told the 19-year-old to replay it. That sparked a lengthy
MLB’s new uniform reveal has not gone very well and some of the rampant criticism has moved below the belt. MLB Players’ Association deputy executive director Bruce Meyer on Thursday said that the organization is relaying concerns from players to the league about the new pants, which are somewhat see-through. The complaints — first reported by ESPN — are part of broader scorn for the new uniforms, which are designed by Nike and manufactured by Fanatics. “I know everyone hates them,” Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said last week. “We all liked what we had. We understand business, but I think everyone wanted
Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday faced a flurry of criticism after appearing to make an obscene gesture following the end of Al-Nassr’s 3-2 win over Al-Shabab in an exciting Saudi Pro League game. The Portugal forward opened the scoring with a 21st-minute penalty, but Al-Nassr needed a late goal from Brazilian Talisca, who struck twice, to settle the game with four minutes left. After the final whistle, social media videos captured Ronaldo cupping his ear before repeatedly pumping his hand forward in front of his pelvic area. The action appeared to be directed at the rival Al-Shabab supporters. In the background, chants of “Messi”