BERLIN (AFP) – Leon Goretzka was outstanding with two first-half goals as Bayern Munich halved Borussia Dortmund’s lead at the top of the Bundesliga early yesterday with a 3-1 win at Hoffenheim.
Bayern’s impressive victory in Sinsheim trimmed Dortmund’s lead to just three points before they face fourth-placed RB Leipzig away.
Bayern, chasing a seventh straight league crown, proved the title race in Germany’s top flight is alive and kicking as the Bundesliga returned after the winter break.
“We wanted a good start to the second half of the season and we excelled in the first half,” said Goretzka.
“Hoffenheim were able to equalise after the break and the game got hectic, but we managed to get the third goal to shut the door.
“This is not a message to Dortmund – we were just focussed on our match – but we want to be champions, there is no doubt.”
This was a dominant display from Niko Kovac’s side as Goretzka stole the show in midfield with two clinically taken goals before Hoffenheim rallied after the break and pulled a goal back through Nico Schulz.
However, Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski made sure of the win three minutes from time by claiming his 11th league goal this season.
It said it all that Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann had the most touches from the host side in the opening 45 minutes.
After a lively start, Bayern deservedly went ahead on 34 minutes when Baumann superbly parried a header from Lewandowski, but Goretzka showed lightning reactions to fire home the rebound from a tight angle.
The second goal, on the stroke of half-time, was even better from Bayern as Thomas Mueller sparked a counter-attack from their own area.
David Alaba sprinted clear down the left wing and fired in a superbly-timed pass which Goretzka slid to reach and guided inside the post.
Bayern were firmly in control as they trudged off in near-freezing conditions in south-west Germany, but Hoffenheim knuckled down and fought back after the break.
Julian Nagelsmann, 31, one of Germany’s rising star coaches who will coach RB Leipzig next season, gave a stern half-time talk and the hosts poured forward after the break with Hoffenheim’s burly Brazilian striker Joelinton testing Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Hoffenheim midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt started pinching possession, appearing from nowhere to rob Thiago Alcantara of the ball on one occasion, which led to the hosts’ claiming an impressive goal.
Bayern were given a taste of their own medicine when Hoffenheim broke quickly, Bittencourt’s pass found Schulz and the left-back calmly cut inside and fired past Neuer in the 59th minute.
Only a point-blank Neuer save denied Hoffenheim replacement striker Adam Szalai’s header with seven minutes left before Lewandowski killed off the game with a crisp shot from Mueller’s final pass.