Bayer Leverkusen were held to a goalless draw at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday as their lead over injury-hit Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga was cut to two points.
Xabi Alonso’s side had started the day four points clear but after Bayern’s 3-2 victory over Augsburg earlier in the afternoon, the pressure was on Leverkusen, the only unbeaten team in Germany’s top-flight.
The hosts dominated with 75% of the ball but couldn’t make the breakthrough.
The game’s biggest chances fell to Jeremie Frimpong, but the Dutchman was wasteful as Leverkusen struggled without their injured talisman Victor Boniface, whose 10 goals in 16 league games have spearheaded Leverkusen’s title charge.
“Gladbach were very compact. They had great morale and energy today,” Leverkusen coach Alonso told Sky Sport Germany.
“We had the feeling that we could score but we didn’t. We have to accept the point.”
Leverkusen will host Bayern in a crunch clash on February 10.
Alonso, who has led the club into a title race they hadn’t expected at the start of the season, has been strongly linked with replacing Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool coach, following the German’s shock decision to leave at the end of the season.
Alonso, a Champions League winner as a player with Liverpool in 2005, was asked again about Klopp’s decision ahead of Saturday’s game.
“It’s a shock and a pity. But I’m concentrating on my team, I’m happy to be here,” he said.
Bayern Munich had closed the gap on Alonso’s side after Augsburg had endured hit and miss late penalty drama.
Bayern had come into the game having got back on track in midweek with a 1-0 win over Union Berlin after a shock 1-0 home defeat by Werder Bremen last weekend.
With Dayot Upamecano limping off with a hamstring problem against Union, and joining Bayern’s growing injury list, Eric Dier made his first start as Alphonso Davies also returned to the starting line-up after being dropped in midweek.
But it was another player drafted into Thomas Tuchel’s starting XI who got things rolling for Bayern.
Making just his fourth start in the league, 19-year-old German midfielder Aleksandar Pavlovic, deputising for the injured Joshua Kimmich, steered the ball in from close range after 23 minutes when Augsburg failed to clear a corner.
Coman in ‘extreme pain’
Davies let fly from distance deep into first half stoppage time to give Bayern a two-goal cushion.
Ermedin Demirovic’s glancing header early in the second half lifted the mood of the home fans, until Harry Kane tapped in Leon Goretzka’s cross just before the hour mark to give Bayern breathing space.
A clumsy foul by Manuel Neuer saw Augsburg awarded an 88th minute penalty, but the Bayern goalkeeper atoned with a fine save from Sven Michel’s spot-kick.
Augsburg won another penalty, in stoppage time, after a trip by substitute Thomas Mueller.
This time Neuer could do nothing about Demirovic’s powerful penalty, but it was too little too late for Augsburg.
Goretzka praised Bayern’s ability to win against a tricky opponent given the makeshift look to the team.
“Today we fielded a back four that has never played together before,” Goretzka said.
“We knew what to expect here and that Augsburg play quite unattractive football. The pitch wasn’t good, of course. We were aware of these things but accepted them, so it was a valuable win.”
Bayern turn up the heat on Leverkusen but yet another injury, this time to French winger Kingsley Coman, soured this priceless victory for Tuchel.
“It’s a difficult injury,” Tuchel told Sky. “He was in a lot of pain and had no chance to continue. The medical team will assess his injury tomorrow. We can’t speculate but he’s in extreme pain.”
In another key game at the top, Deniz Undav scored a hat-trick as Stuttgart thrashed RB Leipzig 5-2 to keep alive their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Borussia Dortmund will have the chance to leapfrog Leipzig and enter the top four with victory over Bochum on Sunday.
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