Bayern Munich restored their eight-point advantage over Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga on Sunday with a comfortable 2-0 win over Hoffenheim.
Robert Lewandowski remained hot on the heels of Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the top of the goalscoring chart with his second successive brace of 2016 taking him onto 19 goals for the season, one fewer than the Gabon international.
Bayern could have won more comfortably, but their win was overshadowed by the loss to injury of Javi Martinez, who joined Jerome Boateng on the sidelines with an injury which meant he did not even take his place on the bench.
Bayern’s nearest challengers in the Bundesliga last season, Wolfsburg, slipped up again on Sunday with a 1-1 draw at home to Cologne.
Julian Draxler’s goal was cancelled out by Anthony Modeste as the Wolves missed an opportunity to move into the top six.
Instead, they remain seventh, two points behind sixth-placed Borussia Monchengladbach and 25 behind Bayern, who remain on course for a fourth straight Bundesliga title.
Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke made in-roads on the Champions League qualifying berths while Borussia Dortmund won on Saturday.
Javier Hernandez was on target twice as Leverkusen put three goals past Hannover with no reply at the BayArena.
Stefan Kiessling scored the other goal for Roger Schmidt’s men, who took advantage of Borussia Monchengladbach’s defeat to Mainz on Friday night to move up to fourth.
That would be enough to earn them a place in the play-off round of the Champions League next season.
Schalke are still breathing down their necks, though, thanks to a 2-0 win at Darmstadt which lifted them to fifth.
Max Meyer and Leroy Sane scored the goals which eased some of the pressure mounting on coach Andre Breitenreiter, who is learning fast how high the expectations are in Gelsenkirchen.
They are equally high in Dortmund, where two late Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goals finally saw off the brave challenge of Ingolstadt with a 2-0 win.
Perhaps more importantly for Dortmund, however, is the fact that they increased their advantage over third-placed Hertha Berlin to 10 points after the capital club were involved in a dramatic encounter in Bremen.
Three goals at the Weser Stadion were not enough for Pal Dardai’s men, who were pegged back for a 3-3 draw having led 2-0 and 3-1.
Claudio Pizarro was on target again for Bremen with a second-half brace, scoring in his third game in succession to help them to a precious point in their battle to avoid the drop. Fin Bartels was also on the mark for Bremen, with Hertha’s goals coming from Vladimir Darida, Marvin Plattenhardt and Salomon Kalou.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Augsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt also moved a point away from the relegation zone with a goalless draw in Bavaria, while Stuttgart won their third game in a row under Jurgen Kramny with a 2-1 victory over Hamburg keeping them above the bottom three.
Artem Kravets, a new loan arrival from Dynamo Kiev, grabbed an 88th-minute clincher for Stuttgart after Hamburg forward Artjoms Rudnevs had cancelled out an own goal from Aaron Hunt.
Mainz moved into the top six of the Bundesliga by completing the double over Borussia Monchengladbach with a 1-0 win.
A determined run by Jairo Samperio, in which he held off the challenge of four Gladbach defenders, led to Christian Clemens receiving the ball 20 yards from goal, and his curling effort found its way past Yann Sommer for the winner in the 21st minute.
Lars Stindl and Raffael were both denied in quick succession by some desperate defending after Oscar Wendt pulled in a cross from the left midway through the second half, but Mainz’s goal was not going to be breached.
A wasteful Gladbach side were fortunate not to concede another goal from Clemens late on, with Mainz nevertheless good value for their win.