Bayern Munich took a giant stride towards a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title as Leon Goretzka's goal sealed a 1-0 win over nearest rivals RB Leipzig on Saturday.
Hansi Flick's side, who were without top goalscorer Robert Lewandowski after he sustained a knee injury on international duty with Poland, are now seven points ahead of second-placed Leipzig, with seven games remaining.
A fifth straight Bundesliga win was secured seven minutes before the interval, Goretzka powering home after smart play by Thomas Muller – a German-record 62nd consecutive match in which they have scored.
Leipzig came close to securing a point on a number of occasions in the second half, but their eight-game unbeaten league run – and possibly their title hopes – ultimately came to an end at the Red Bull Arena.
Despite doing much of the pressing in the early stages, Leipzig were unable to trouble Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting fizzed wide midway through the first half before Bayern went ahead with their first shot on target in the 38th minute.
Thomas Muller pulled the ball back to Goretzka, who thundered into Peter Gulacsi's top-left corner from 15 yards for his fifth Bundesliga goal of the campaign.
Gulacsi got down well to paw away Leroy Sane's volley from outside the area as Bayern threatened to extend their advantage before the interval.
Dani Olmo twice went close straight after the break, while Neuer superbly tipped over Marcel Sabitzer's long-range drive.
Muller was denied by Gulacsi late on, but it mattered little in the end as Bayern held on for a vital three points with the minimum of fuss.
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Flick was keen to play down the importance of this game in the race for the title, but there is little doubt Bayern are now red-hot favourites to seal yet another Bundesliga crown.
After 14 shots to Bayern's nine and 54 per cent possession, Leipzig will feel they should have got at least a point out of the game, but this Bayern side is made of stern stuff.
It was not pretty from the Bavarian giants, yet Flick's men held on to secure a win that could well determine the destination for this year's title.
Goretzka in the thick of things
Goretzka stole the headlines with his decisive strike in the first half, but that was just one facet of an all-action display from the combative midfielder.
He made four tackles – second only to Lucas Hernandez (seven) on the pitch – while only midfield partner Joshua Kimmich (nine) gained possession more times than his eight for the visitors.
Choupo-Moting is no Lewandowski
Choupo-Moting was tasked with filling the void left by talisman Lewandowksi and he did not exactly excel. He did manage two shots on target – neither of which truly troubled Gulacsi – but won just five of his 14 duels.
Key Opta Stats:
- Goretzka has scored three goals in his last four Bundesliga games and was involved in six goals in his last five (three goals, three assists).
- Muller has been involved in 11 goals in his last 10 Bundesliga games (four goals, seven assists).
- Bayern are now seven points ahead of the biggest challengers Leipzig – after matchday 27 (or later) such a lead has never been given away in Bundesliga history.
- Flick's men have won their last seven games in all competitions and14 of their last 16 games (one draw, one loss).
Bayern host Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday before welcoming Union Berlin to the Allianz Arena in the Bundesliga on Saturday – the same day Leipzig visit Werder Bremen.