Berlin: Defending champions Borussia Dortmund were held to a 1-1 draw at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday as leaders Bayern Munich finished the weekend a massive 17 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
Holders Dortmund take on Bayern on Wednesday in the quarter-finals of the German Cup, but Munich are running away with this season’s league title and are all but guaranteed to end their three-year wait for silverware in May.
“Over the 60 minutes we played a really good away game, but as the match wore on, we played less football and Gladbach came back into it,” said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, whose team won the corresponding fixture 5-0 in September.
“There are worse things than drawing away from home, but we aren’t happy.”
With both Borussia strikers Julian Schieber and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski suspended after recent red cards, Klopp played Germany midfielder Mario Goetze, 20, up front and he converted a 31st-minute penalty.
After being clear through on goal, Goetze was tripped by Gladbach goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and referee Guenter Perl pointed straight to the spot.
Gladbach, 10th in the table, were fielding a weakened attack without both centre forward Patrick Herrmann (suspended) and left-wing Juan Arango (ankle injury).
Herrmann’s replacement, 19-year-old Amin Younes, marked only his third Bundesliga appearance with his first goal for Gladbach when he equalised on 67 minutes.
Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl squandered a chance to win the game in the second minute of stoppage time when he fired just wide of the post.
Bayer Leverkusen remain third after they were held to a goalless draw by bottom side Greuther Fuerth, who sacked Mike Bueskens on Wednesday with caretaker coach Ludwig Preis now in charge with his team 14 points from safety.
On Saturday, Bayern rested half a dozen stars ahead of the Dortmund cup clash but still romped to a 6-1 win at home against 10-man Werder Bremen.
Munich extended their unbeaten run to 20 matches since their last defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen at the end of October and it was the first time they have conceded a league goal since their 1-1 draw with Gladbach on December 14.
Amongst the key changes, Germany striker Mario Gomez, who scored twice, came in for Mario Mandzukic, Dutch winger Arjen Robben, who opened the scoring, started for Thomas Mueller while Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri took Toni Kroos’ place.
France winger Franck Ribery and Spain defensive midfielder Javi Martinez also scored, while Bremen’s Theodor Gebre Selassie turned the ball into his own net early in the second half.
Bremen were reduced to 10 men when centre-back Sebastian Proedl was shown a straight red card for bringing down Gomez, who was through on goal, just before the break.
Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, on loan from Chelsea, pulled a goal back for Werder approaching the hour mark.
Schalke 04 built on Wednesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw at Galatasaray with a 2-1 victory at home to strugglers Fortuna Duesseldorf, only the Royal Blues’ second league win since mid November, to leave them ninth.
Augsburg moved up to 16th in the league with a 2-1 win at home to Hoffenheim, while Hanover trounced Hamburg 5-1 to move up to seventh.
Wolfsburg earned a 1-1 draw at Mainz 05 despite playing with 10 men for 60 minutes while Nuremberg earned a 1-1 draw at Stuttgart to stay 14th and just above the relegation places.