Bayern Munich top-scorer Jamal Musiala struck again on his birthday Sunday to help his team reclaim first place in the Bundesliga with a 3-0 win over surprise challenger Union Berlin. (More Football News)
After goals from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Kingsley Coman, Musiala marked his 20th birthday with his 11th league goal of the season just before the break for Bayern to deal Union its first defeat in any competition since November.
The 10-time defending champion reclaimed the lead on goal difference from Borussia Dortmund, which has closed the gap by winning every game it’s played this year. Dortmund had moved three points clear on Saturday by beating Hoffenheim.
“We weren’t leading before the game anymore, so something had to happen,” said Thomas Müller, who set up two goals on his 430th Bundesliga appearance for Bayern. Only goalkeeping great Sepp Maier, with 473, has more.
“I think it was a good first step,” Müller said. “But it won’t do anything for us next week that we played well today. We have to deliver every week.”
Union dropped three points behind the big two in third place, still a remarkable achievement for a club that was targeting league survival from its fourth season in the Bundesliga.
The visitors’ busy schedule in three competitions finally took its toll. Union beat Ajax Amsterdam 3-1 in their Europa League playoff game on Thursday.
“I think the guys deserve one or two days free. They were really two very intensive weeks where we did very well and today we have to acknowledge that we had no chance,” Union coach Urs Fischer said.
In contrast, Bayern had eight days to recover after its 3-2 loss at Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend. Bayern appeared fresher from the start against Union, which had started the day level on 43 points with the Bavarian powerhouse.
Sadio Mané came on as a substitute for Bayern in what was the Senegal star’s first appearance since Nov. 8, when he was injured playing against Werder Bremen. Mané needed surgery to reattach a tendon to the head of his right fibula and missed the World Cup.
Müller missed the game’s first big chance and Musiala was twice blocked before Müller forced a good save from Frederik Rönnow.
Choupo-Moting finally made the breakthrough in the 31st when he rose between two defenders to head in Kingsley Coman’s cross to the far post.
Coman made it 2-0 in the 40th when Rönnow’s kickout from goal was quickly returned. Matthijs de Ligt won the ball in midfield and Müller sent it on straightway to Coman, who rounded the goalkeeper before scoring from a narrow angle.
There was still time before the break for Musiala to score after Müller pulled the ball back from the end line.
“The second and third goals before the break really annoyed me,” Fischer said. “Especially the lead-up. It really wasn’t necessary. But if you give Bayern an invitation, then they’ll say thank you.”
Earlier, Sardar Azmoun scored for Bayer Leverkusen to salvage a 1-1 draw at Freiburg, but the team’s patchy form leaves European qualification increasingly at risk.
Leverkusen has won three of its seven league games so far this year, and Sunday’s draw dropped the team down to 11th.
Freiburg dropped to fifth, one point behind Leipzig in the last place for Champions League qualification.\