March 15, 2014
By CIARAN FAHEY Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) -- Bastian Schweinsteiger scored one goal and set up another as Bayern Munich moved ever closer to the Bundesliga title with a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
Schweinsteiger crossed for Mario Mandzukic to score with a powerful header in the 44th minute, and secured Bayern's league record 17th win in succession with a perfectly placed free kick in the 52nd.
"It was an important goal, so I'm happy it went in," the Germany midfielder said.
Stefan Kiessling headed Leverkusen's consolation from Roberto Hilbert's cross in injury time.
Bayern extended its league record unbeaten run to 50 games and moved 23 points clear of Borussia Dortmund with nine games remaining.
Dortmund was beaten 2-1 at home by Borussia Moenchengladbach, meaning Bayern can secure the title at Mainz next week if Dortmund and Schalke, 24 points behind in third, both fail to win.
"I remember we were champions in Mainz a couple of times before. It was funny because they celebrated with us," Schweinsteiger said. "But it's all the same when we do it."
Bayern made a lackluster start in its first game since Uli Hoeness stepped down as president after being convicted of tax evasion. He was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison on Thursday.
Son Heung-min should have scored for Leverkusen in the 11th, when he had only Manuel Neuer to beat after being played in by Kiessling, but the South Korean shot wide of the far post.
"I wanted to place it in the corner," Son said. "We did everything we could."
Neuer also made a good save to deny Simon Rolfes from distance in the 29th.
Mandzukic beat Philipp Wollscheid to meet Schweinsteiger's cross before the break, and Schweinsteiger shot over the wall and inside the top left corner to seal the result.
"We weren't at out limit," Bayern midfielder Thomas Mueller grumbled. "It's all the same (when Bayern clinch the title). We want to win again to keep our rhythm so we're there again in the knockout rounds of the Champions League."
Earlier, Mainz came from two goals down to win 4-2 at Hoffenheim, Werder Bremen drew 1-1 with Stuttgart, Wolfsburg could only draw 1-1 at bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig, and Hertha Berlin lost 3-0 at home to Hannover.
Dortmund, which hosts Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League on Wednesday, was without influential midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus due to suspension and muscle problems, respectively, as 10-man `Gladbach ended its nine-game run without a win.
"We had a tough time and naturally we're all relieved," said `Gladbach coach Lucien Favre, who extended his contract on Wednesday.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck the crossbar for Dortmund before Raffael scored at the other end in the 31st.
Max Kruse made it 2-0 by drawing Dortmund defender Lukasz Piszczek and goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller first one way, then the other, before clipping the ball in.
"When you go nine games without scoring then of course it's a relief," said Kruse, who was dropped for Germany's recent game with Chile because of poor form.
Havard Nordtveit was sent off for his second yellow card in the 69th, eight minutes before Dortmund substitute Milos Jojic pulled one back with a deflected shot.
"It shouldn't happen to us at home," Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin said. "You could see after the sending-off that everyone believed in the equalizer but it wasn't to be."
Hoffenheim led 2-0 minutes into the second half, but the defense crumbled, letting in three Mainz goals in an eight-minute span, and Shinji Okazaki's second in injury time.
"I can't explain why we gave the game away," Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol said.
It had been briefly interrupted in the first half when Hoffenheim's Andreas Beck crashed into a pitchside cameraman, knocking him and the TV camera over. Both needed treatment. The cameraman was carried away on a stretcher, while Beck carried on.
With new coach Huub Stevens in charge, Stuttgart was hoping to end its nine-game winless streak. But Bremen equalized with 12 minutes to go.
"A pity," Stevens said.
Braunschweig was far happier in salvaging its draw with Wolfsburg.
"This lets us continue on our journey of Bundesliga participation," Braunschweig coach Torsten Lieberknecht said.
Updated on Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 5:26 pm, EDT
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