Bayern builds 7-point lead, Hertha gets 1st win in 2022
BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a 4-0 win against Union Berlin on Saturday, and Hertha Berlin won its first game of 2022.
Bayern star Robert Lewandowski scored twice to take his league tally to 31 goals in 27 games. It’s the fifth season that the Poland international has scored 30 goals or more in the Bundesliga, a feat only previously achieved by former Bayern great Gerd Müller.
Kingsley Coman and Tanguy Nianzou scored the other goals as Bayern prevented second-place Borussia Dortmund from cutting its lead any further in this round. Dortmund visits Cologne on Sunday.
The league leaders were fortunate that Union was unable to make more of its own chances, while the visitors’ mistakes in defense were gifts for Bayern’s more-than-capable attack.
Bayern was without defenders Niklas Süle and Benjamin Pavard due to injury and the coronavirus, respectively, but Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting returned and were among the substitutes.
Bayern pressured from the start and Coman opened the scoring in the 16th minute before Nianzou scored his first Bundesliga goal in the 25th.
Union’s Andreas Luthe was penalized for blocking Lewandowski after Paul Jaeckel played the ball short to his goalkeeper. Lewandowski dusted himself off to take the penalty for his 30th goal of the season before the break. Jamal Musiala set him up for his 31st right after it.
Union kept pushing forward and might have had a penalty in the 49th when Nianzou appeared to foul Robin Knoche. He connected with Knoche’s foot and not the ball, but a VAR check found nothing wrong.
MAGATH-EFFECT WITHOUT MAGATH
Hertha benefited from the Felix Magath-effect in his first game as coach despite his absence due to a coronavirus infection.
Marvin Plattenhardt set up three goals for Hertha to climb out of a direct relegation place with a 3-0 win over Hoffenheim, ending a nine-game winless streak going back to a 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund on Dec. 18.
Hertha, which dropped second last in the 18-team division last weekend, fired Tayfun Korkut as coach on Sunday and appointed the experienced Magath in his place.
Magath, who formerly coached Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and many more, was joined by assistant coach Mark Fotheringham, whom he knew from their time together at English team Fulham.
But Magath tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, leaving Fotheringham to take charge in his place.
“I thought a comet would come down and hit the club headquarters today,” Hertha sporting director Fredi Bobic joked about the latest misfortune in a season that has not gone to plan.
Hoffenheim was previously unbeaten in five Bundesliga games. It drew with Bayern 1-1 last weekend.
Hertha played with passion and intensity, and Niklas Stark finally broke the deadlock in the 39th minute with a header to Plattenhardt’s free kick. The linesman raised his flag for offside but a VAR check confirmed Stark was on.
Hertha maintained its intensity after the break. The players’ commitment even earned applause from the home supporters, something they’d rarely heard this season.
Ishak Belfodil got the second goal in the 63rd, when Marc Oliver Kempf cushioned another free kick from Plattenhardt into the Algerian’s path. Belfodil’s celebrations were muted against his former club, but the Hertha fans were singing.
There was also good news coming from Mainz, where relegation rival Arminia Bielefeld was losing.
Another free kick from Plattenhardt led to Hertha’s third in the 74th, an own-goal from David Raum under pressure from Dedryck Boyata.
Mainz ultimately beat Bielefeld 4-0, leaving Bielefeld second last and Hertha one place above in the playoff place.
Stuttgart climbed out of the relegation zone by coming from behind to beat Augsburg 3-2.
Stuttgart’s players emerged with Ukraine flags and the words “No War” on their training tops before the game.
Also, last-place Greuther Fürth held Freiburg 0-0, denting the visiting team’s Champions League ambitions.
Friday’s game between Bochum and Borussia Mönchengladbach was called off after a linesman was struck in the back of the head with a plastic beer cup. Gladbach was leading 2-0 at the time.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP