BERLIN: Robert Lewandowski’s 25th goal of the season gave Bayern Munich a 1-0 win at Cologne on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as the Bundesliga leaders moved eight points clear of Borussia Dortmund once again at the top of the table.
The Poland star, the Bundesliga’s leading scorer, fired home in the 10th minute after Dominique Heintz blocked a Thiago Alcantara pass and the ball fell into his path.
That was enough for a Bayern side showing numerous changes from their dramatic midweek Champions League victory over Juventus, with coach Pep Guardiola leaving the likes of Thomas Mueller, Franck Ribery and Philipp Lahm on the bench.
While it was not a vintage display by the Bavarian giants, they were rarely troubled by mid-table Cologne, although Anthony Modeste came close to equalising for the hosts a quarter of an hour from the end.
Manuel Neuer came out to deny the French forward but could not hold the ball and Modeste got a second bite, only for David Alaba to make a crucial block.
Neuer also intervened to deny Leonardo Bittencourt with the last kick of the game at the RheinEnergieStadion.
“It was hard to play two and a half days after a game against Juventus that was mentally draining,” said Guardiola.
“On the whole we controlled the game well, but we saw once again how difficult it is to defend in the Bundesliga this year.”
Second-placed Dortmund will get the chance to reduce the gap back to five points when they go to Augsburg on Sunday, but coach Thomas Tuchel is waiting to see whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be available for the game.
Aubameyang, who has scored 35 goals this season including 22 in the Bundesliga, is a doubt following the death of his grandfather.
Meanwhile, Hertha Berlin remain on course to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1999/2000 after a 2-1 victory over Ingolstadt in the capital.
All the goals came in the second half at the Olympiastadion, with Japanese international winger Genki Haraguchi scoring one goal and making another for Pal Dardai’s side.
Haraguchi arrived at the near post to turn in a left-wing cross by Marvin Plattenhardt and give Hertha the lead in the 54th minute.
He then turned provider on 69 minutes, crossing from the right for Salomon Kalou to net his 13th Bundesliga goal of the campaign at the back post.
Substitute Lukas Hinterseer pulled one back for Ingolstadt, but Hertha held on and are once again four points clear of Schalke 04 in third, the final automatic qualifying berth for next season’s Champions League.