Berlin (dpa) – On their 121st birthday Bayern Munich crushed Cologne 5-1 on Saturday to return to winning ways in the Bundesliga and make sure they retain the league lead, but second-placed RB Leipzig remained two points behind after a comeback to beat Borussia Moenchengladbach 3-2.
Borussia Dortmund got a second consecutive triumph, 3-0 over Arminia Bielefeld, and bottom of the table Schalke had another debacle as they were crushed 5-1 by VfB Stuttgart and missed a penalty amid a coaching debate.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored his first goal for Bayern to open the scoring at the Allianz Arena, and Robert Lewandowski doubled the Bavarian advantage after a superb pass from Leon Goretzka who had three assists on the day.
Cologne pulled one back right after the break through Ellyes Skhiri thanks to an embarrassing performance from the Bavarian defence.
But Thomas Mueller, recovered from a coronavirus infection, fed Lewandowski for his 28th goal in the league this season and Serge Gnabry then also got a brace to seal the win.
“When Thomas and I came in, things weren’t looking good for us and we weren’t that dominant,” Gnabry said. “Thankfully, we made it 3-1 straight away, which of course made the game easier for us.”
But coach Hansi Flick said “for me Goretzka was the man of the match” after the midfielder assisted three goals.
Bayern were previously held by Arminia Bielefeld and lost at Eintracht Frankfurt which allowed second-placed Leipzig to close the gap to the top.
Leipzig were 2-0 down before the break but fought for a comeback to avoid a setback in the title race.
Jonas Hofmann converted an early penalty to open the scoring for Gladbach, and Marcus Thuram doubled their advantage in the 19th minute.
But Christopher Nkunku in the 57th minute and Yussuf Poulsen nine minutes later levelled things up for Leipzig, who used the time left on the clock to put some pressure on Gladbach.
After a few superb saves from Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer, Leipzig’s good job was rewarded in the final minute of added time, when Alexander Sorloth completed the important comeback.
Gladbach players complained Sorloth pushed Valentino
Lazaro when jumping for his header. The goal was reviewed by the video assistant referee but counted.
“Everyone played very well. We played for the win, we believed and tried to win,” Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann said.
“But I understand why it will be discussed,” he said about Sorloth winner.
Gladbach haven’t won in five games and lost twice since coach Marco Rose said earlier in February he will move to Borussia Dortmund in summer.
“I’m Borussia Moenchengladbach coach, I’m responsible for this team, for these players and this is zero difficult to me,” Rose said.
After a first half with missed chances from both sides Mahmoud Dahoud scored Dortmund opener in the 48th and Jadon Sancho converted a penalty 10 minutes later.
Brazilian midfielder Reinier scored Dortmund’s third and his first-ever Bundesliga goal as the team fight to return to the Champions League qualification zone.
“That was good, but we must move forward. We now have three big clashes [German Cup at Gladbach, Bundesliga at Bayern and Champions League against Sevilla],” defender Mats Hummels said.
“There is definitely an improvement, but there is still room for more,” he added.
Schalke were busy dismissing news reports that players have called for coach Christian Gross to be dismissed before the team suffered a latest setback in Stuttgart where they quick trailed 3-0.
Wataru Endo scored his first Bundesliga goal from a corner and then got a second before Sasa Kalajdzic headed in Stuttgart’s third.
Schalke pulled one back from Sead Kolasinac before the break but team-mate Nabil Bentaleb then missed from the spot and two late efforts from Philipp Klement and Daniel Didavi concluded Stuttgart’s big win.
Gross said after the game he doesn’t feel abandoned and that he “couldn’t really understand” what was published by the media.
“I think if there are conflicts you have to address them, but in the right way,” he said. “For me there’s no giving up.”
Keeper Michael Langer recognized Gross is not the entire problem saying “if we play and defend like today, then the trainer is the poorest sod.”
Elsewhere, third-placed Wolfsburg beat Hertha Berlin 2-0 thanks to an own goal by Lukas Kluenter and a late goal by Maxence Lacroix, but saw defender Marin Pongracic dismissed in stoppage.
On Sunday, Union Berlin v Hoffenheim, Mainz v Augsburg and Bayer Leverkusen v Freiburg close the matchday 23 programme.