Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich struck twice in the first half to secure a simple 2-0 win away to Mainz on Saturday while pursuers Bayer Leverkusen drew and Schalke were beaten.
Mainz offered credible resistance but Bayern’s first real threat of the game, in the 33rd minute, was a brilliant volley into the net by Franck Ribery. James Rodriguez made the win safe just before the break.
Schalke led Werder Bremen until they had a man sent off late on and conceded twice to lose 2-1. They fall to fourth on goal difference, a point behind Bayer Leverkusen, who were held 0-0 at Freiburg. Leverkusen are 18 points behind Bayern.
Tayfun Korkut’s first game in charge of VfB Stuttgart ended 1-1 at Wolfsburg while Hertha Berlin drew 1-1 with Hoffenheim. Later Saturday Borussia Moenchengladbach host RB Leipzig.
Bayern initially struggled to create clear chances against Mainz but went in front through a moment of inspiration. Yoshinori Muto’s defensive header at a corner fell for Ribery, who lashed the ball home with the outside of his right foot.
And when James chested down Corentin Tolisso’s cross to finish well in the 44th, there was no way back for Mainz.
Sandro Wagner was given a first Bayern start, in place of the rested Robert Lewandowski, and only a fine save from Robin Zentner denied him a second goal for his new club.
Struggling Bremen matched Schalke in the first period but a rare mistake from keeper Jiri Pavlenka, letting Yevhen Konoplyanka’s long shot through his hands, put them behind.
Matija Nastasic’s second yellow card turned the game, however, and when Ralf Faehrmann dropped the resulting free kick, Max Kruse turned home an equalizer. Zlatko Junuzovic then bundled a winner three minutes into added time after Maximilian Eggestein beat Faehrmann to a through ball.
Bremen escape the relegation play-off place by goal difference from Mainz. Second-last SV Hamburg who host Hanover on Sunday after Augsburg meet Frankfurt.
At the upper end of the table, Leverkusen stay second despite after their goalless trip to Freiburg. Lucas Alario headed off the post for the guests, who are one point better off than Borussia Dortmund, who are up to third after a 3-2 win at bottom club Cologne on Friday.
Hoffenheim, ninth, went in front through Andrej Kramaric’s first half penalty in Berlin, awarded when Nico Schulz returned from an offside position to win a penalty from Niklas Stark. Salomon Kalou’s header levelled for midtable Hertha in a match which saw Hoffenheim’s Kerem Demirbay taken to hospital with a foot injury.
Wolfsburg remain 13th despite having led Stuttgart through Divock Origi’s strike. The visitors fought back to earn Korkut a deserved debut point as Mario Gomez netted against his former club to edge Stuttgart away from the bottom three.