Bayern Munich eased to a comfortable 3-0 victory over promoted Leipzig in their top-of-the-table clash to claim the Bundesliga’s unofficial title of `autumn champion’ before the winter break.
“We wanted to send a signal,” Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said.
The two sides had been level going into their 16th-round showdown, with Leipzig, boasting the league’s best away record, quietly confident of causing another upset to round off a remarkable first half-season of top-flight football.
Only founded in 2009, Leipzig was promoted as second-division runner-up last season but surprised many by making the best ever start for a new team in the Bundesliga.
But the visitors were already two goals down when their hopes were virtually extinguished with Emil Forsberg’s sending off for a dangerous lunge in the 30th minute.
“We all make mistakes,” Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl said. “It didn’t go as we imagined it would.”
Thiago Alcantara opened the scoring inside 20 minutes, when he arrived at the right time to convert from close range with his thigh after Robert Lewandowski’s initial effort hit the right post.
Douglas Costa almost added another immediately afterward, only to see his effort from 14 yards (meters) strike the left post.
Bayern had more shots on goal, more possession and was winning more tackles than the visiting side.
Xabi Alonso made Bayern’s dominance count minutes later. Naby Keita, a key player for Leipzig, lost the ball to Arturo Vidal, and it went through Lewandowski and then Thiago, who set up a rare goal from open play for Alonso.
Leipzig’s task grew harder when Forsberg was sent off for a bad challenge on Lahm from behind.
Lewandowski made it 3-0 with a penalty before the break after Leipzig `keeper Gulacsi brought down Costa. It meant Lewandowski has scored against every Bundesliga club, the only active player to do so.
Gulacsi atoned somewhat by getting the better of Lewandowski in a one-on-one after the break, before substitute Franck Ribery struck the crossbar.
By then the game was decided, however, and players were already looking forward to their month-long winter break.
“It was a lesson. The best team won. Congratulations to Bayern,” Hasenhuettl said.
Bayern now leads Leipzig by three points, with third-place Hertha Berlin six points further back at the season’s halfway stage.
Here’s a look at other matches Wednesday:
HERTHA BERLIN 2, DARMSTADT 0
Football was overshadowed in Berlin, where 12 people died and many more were injured following Monday’s attack with a truck on a Christmas market.
Darmstadt fans held up a banner saying “Stay strong Berlin” and thousands of candles were lit around the Olympiastadion as both teams and supporters observed a minute of silence for the victims.
It was early in the second half before home fans had reason to cheer when Marvin Plattenhardt struck with a brilliant free kick for Hertha.
Plattenhardt sent another free kick in for Salomon Kalou to head Hertha’s second goal in the 66th minute.
“We won for the city of Berlin,” Kalou said. “Our fans showed that love is more important than anything else.”
HOFFENHEIM 1, WERDER BREMEN 1
Sandro Wagner’s first half strike looked to be enough for unbeaten Hoffenheim to stay third, but Serge Gnabry, arguably the best young player this season, equalized in the final minutes for relegation-threatened Bremen to grab a valuable point and allow Hertha sneak third place.
COLOGNE 1, BAYER LEVERKUSEN 1
Cologne will be happier to share the spoils from the Rhine derby, with Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt under pressure after a disappointing opening half of the season left his side ninth, 16 points off the pace.
Anthony Modeste fired the home side ahead in the 21st minute with a brilliant touch with the inside of his right boot to Frederik Soerensen’s cross, sending the ball over the `keeper and under the crossbar.
But Brazilian defender Wendell equalized before the break, and ran to celebrate with his beleaguered coach.
Elsewhere, Two goals from Florian Niederlechner in the first half were enough for Freiburg to win 2-1 at Ingolstadt.