Bundesliga title race blown open as Covid plays major role

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Bayern Munich thought they had got away with Friday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Borussia Monchengladbach when Eintracht Frankfurt scored two first-half goals in Saturday’s clash with Borussia Dortmund.

But second-placed Dortmund battled back to win 3-2 as they breathed life into the title race, with Bayern now just six points ahead.

The fact Bayern’s defeat came amid nine coronavirus cases in the first team, and with two players away at the African Nations Cup, was lost on no one.

They were so stretched that 16-year-old midfielder Paul Wanner became the youngest Bayern player in Bundesliga history. The league leaders had even discussed trying to postpone the game. But for nine seasons the rest of the Bundesliga has failed to keep pace with the Bavarians. Rivals might argue a major bout of bad luck for Bayern was overdue.

The champions visit Cologne next Saturday and although some of the stricken are back in training, coach Julian Nagelsmann is not hugely hopeful. “We’ll see which players are available for Cologne,” he said. “I’m not currently expecting many returnees who’ll be in contention for the starting XI.”

The only good coronavirus news for Bayern on Friday was the return of unvaccinated Joshua Kimmich after around two months out because of isolation, a positive test and lung problems which followed. He has indicated he will now get jabbed when his recovered status runs out. Bayern will be less fearful of being caught atop the Bundesliga if they watch a replay of Dortmund’s first half at Frankfurt, who were gunning for a seventh win in eight matches as the season resumed after the mid-season break.

Rafael Borre’s two goals were far too easy as Dortmund’s well-publicized defensive woes continued into the second half of the campaign. The way they fought back in the second half though was admirable, even if coronavirus again played a role given there were very few Frankfurt fans in the stadium to gee up their fading side. Goals from Thorgan Hazard, Jude Bellingham and Mahmoud Dahoud completed an extraordinary turnaround.

Coach Marco Rose said: “It’s too easy to create chances against us. At half-time, everyone was calm and realistic. The lads listened, and we discussed a few little things. I got the impression that they believed in it. “I urge them to keep showing that attitude and hope this victory will give us something extra.” Dortmund next host fourth-placed Freiburg on Friday when a win will reduce the gap at the top to three points, pending Bayern’s tricky trip to Cologne.


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