On Sunday, table-topping Bayern extended its lead over second-place rival Borussia Dortmund with a 2-0 win at Union Berlin. It was Bayern’s fifth consecutive league victory dating back to mid-February.
Like Saturday’s slate of matches and all others for the foreseeable future, the contest was played without fans in the German capital. And as was the case in Saturday’s games, the rust of the long layoff was evident, with players far from their usual levels of fitness and sharpness. While there were chances for both teams in the first half, they managed to combine for just two on-target shots.
One of those attempts stood up as the game winner. With halftime approaching, Berlin defender Neven Subotic brought down Leon Goretzka inside the area. Robert Lewandowski stepped up to take the ensuing penalty and easily converted past home keeper (and Polish international teammate) Rafał Gikiewicz:
The goal was Lewandowski’s 26th goal in as many Bundesliga matches this season, and the 40th across all competitions for Europe’s current top scorer. It also kept the 31-year-old within striking distance of the single season Bundesliga record of 40, set by legendary Bayern forward Gerd Muller in 1971-72, although Lewandowski wasn’t able to get any closer in the second half. He would need 14 goals in Bayern’s final eight games just to equal the mark.
The visitors actually thought they had taken the lead before Lewandowski’s opener, when Thomas Muller — no relation to Gerd — beat Gikiewicz from close range. Muller appeared to be in an offside position, though, and while the officials initially seemed prepared to allow the goal to stand, it was eventually (and correctly) ruled out by the video assistant referee:
Bayern would struggle mightily to score again. That was no accident; Union Berlin defended superbly throughout, with former Dortmund and U.S. youth national teamer Subotic the anchor of the hosts’ stingy back line. Entering the final quarter-hour of play, a point was still there for the home side to steal.
Instead, the visitors sealed the victory when World Cup-winning defender Benjamin Pavard’s powerful header off a Joshua Kimmich corner kick made it 2-0 with just 10 minutes to go:
The triumph gives Bayern 58 points and restores their four-point advantage over Dortmund, which trounced chief rival Schalke a day earlier in its own return to action.
Bayern is looking for its eighth consecutive Bundesliga title year. Based on Sunday’s evidence, there’s no reason to think they won’t be able to pull it off.
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