Bayern beats Leverkusen 3-1 as winter break ends
BERLIN (AP) — The Bundesliga resumed Friday after the winter break with Bayern Munich going 14 points clear after a 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen.
Goals from Javi Martinez and Franck Ribery in either half, and a brilliant free kick from James Rodriguez in injury time kept the defending champions on course for a record-extending sixth consecutive title.
It was Leverkusen’s first defeat at home this season, and ended a 12-game unbeaten run.
“We weren’t brave enough in the first half. We were better in the second, but then suddenly it was 2-0,” Leverkusen midfielder Sven Bender said.
Leverkusen went close early on when Dominik Kohr headed just wide, and Leon Bailey wasted a good chance on a counterattack. But Martinez pounced to open the scoring for Bayern off the rebound after Sven Bender had blocked Arturo Vidal’s header from a corner.
Bailey hit the crossbar early in the second half after turning Niklas Suele one way and then another, before Thomas Mueller went close at the other end.
Ribery let fly with a shot inside the near post to make it 2-0 just before the hour mark.
Bayern seemed to be in control but Kevin Volland pulled one back for Leverkusen with a deflected shot and suddenly the home side was pressing for more with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Volland had a good opportunity to equalize but his first touch let him down and Jerome Boateng was able to clear, while Lucas Alario also went close for Leverkusen.
Coach Jupp Heynckes sent on winter signing Sandro Wagner for his second Bayern debut - he made four Bundesliga appearances for the senior side in the 2007-08 season - but James stole the limelight with his perfect free kick into the top left corner.
“My team played very well tactically over long stretches today, especially in defense,” Heynckes said after facing one of his former sides. “Leverkusen was set up to attack and all our forwards had to work in defense.”
Second-place Schalke is away to Leipzig on Saturday.