BERLIN – Fullbacks Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba flashed in fine goals to help Bayern Munich continue their return to form with a 4-0 win at lowly Hanover in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Coach Niko Kovac had looked in real trouble just a few weeks ago, but three victories on the bounce in the league have lifted Bayern within six points of leaders Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund though can be crowned unofficial winter champions if they at least draw with Werder Bremen at home later, and ensure they will still lead the standings at the mid-season break from December 24.
Bayern in third are level on points with second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach, who could only manage a 0-0 draw at Hoffenheim.
The hosts saw the better of the chances, with Joelinton having an effort chalked off for offside.
Fortuna Dusseldorf jumped two places off the bottom thanks to a 2-0 win over Freiburg, while Mario Gomez scored his first league goals since October as Stuttgart fought back for a 2-1 home win over Hertha Berlin. Schalke also battled back for a 1-1 draw at Augsburg.
Kimmich, who had a role in all four goals, seemed to have nailed down the right back spot for both Bayern and Germany after years as a utility player, but the 23-year-old has played in defensive midfield of late.
He reverted to right back in Hanover, and soon profited with a beautifully controlled volley from the edge of the area after two minutes.
Left back Alaba soon matched his teammate when the Austria international blasted home from a similar distance on the half-hour mark, when Kimmich’s corner had only partly been cleared.
Kimmich was also involved in the third goal on 53 minutes, raiding down the right wing and setting up Serge Gnabry to score at the second attempt.
And it was Kimmich yet again who put in the cross for Robert Lewandowski to make it 4-0.
“We were always there in their faces,” Bayern forward Thomas Muller, who had another good game, told Sky Sport. “I must say it was a top performance.”
Hanover slipped to bottom place, four points from absolute safety, after their ninth defeat in 15 games.
Dusseldorf took full advantage of Hanover’s hammering by climbing out of the automatic relegation places after Kaan Ayhan’s second-half double against lethargic visitors Freiburg.
Maximilian Mittelstaedt finished off a well-worked move for his first league goal to give Hertha the lead at Stuttgart, although goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler could possibly have done better.
Former Germany striker Gomez then equalised with a typical poacher’s goal midway through the second period, and powered in a header completely unmarked to complete the turnaround and nudge Stuttgart up to 15th.
Second-bottom Nuremberg lost 2-0 at home to Wolfsburg on Friday.
Augsburg’s Michael Gregoritsch grabbed the opener in Bavaria after a dreadful punch from Schalke keeper Ralf Faehrmann allowed the Austria forward to head into an empty net amid woeful defending generally.
Daniel Caligiuri fired home the leveller in the second half to rival Kimmich and Alaba for Bundesliga goal of the day. The point also left Schalke in 13th spot, one point and place above Augsburg.
“Today was a game of two halves. In the first half, we pressed too high and lost too many aerial battles. We deserved to go in behind,” Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco told a news conference.
“We switched things up in the second half and gained more control. We eventually played well, and could have won the game.”
RB Leipzig welcome Mainz on Sunday, before Eintracht Frankfurt host Bayer Leverkusen.dpa