BERLIN – Javi Martinez fired Bayern Munich to a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin as the defending champions won their 10th Bundesliga match from 11 to draw level on points with Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table on Saturday.
Bayern were until recently nine points adrift of Dortmund, who lead the Bavarians on goal difference ahead of their match with Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.
Munich’s man of the moment Martinez – fresh from a superb midweek Champions League performance against Liverpool – put the home side in the lead in the 62nd minute, heading a corner into the top left of the Berlin goal.
Berlin’s comeback attempts were scuppered in the 84th minute with centre-back Karim Bekik picking up a red card as his side ran out of steam.
Despite the victory, Bayern coach Niko Kovac was concerned about injured winger Kingsley Coman, who limped off the field in the 67th minute.
“In the first half, we had some difficulties. A set piece decided this game. On the whole, I’m satisfied,” he said.
“For Kingsley, we will need to wait for the results of the scan. I hope (the injury) isn’t too bad.”
Borussia Moenchengladbach, who were equal on points with Bayern just two weeks ago, dropped to eight behind the leaders with a 3-0 loss at home to Wolfsburg.
Bayern apply the ultimate pressure. How will Dortmund respond? pic.twitter.com/jusVNUanO0— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) February 23, 2019
Yannick Gerhardt put the visitors ahead in the 38th minute before Admir Mehmedi added a second in the 68th.
Mehmedi took advantage of Gladbach’s poor communication in defence, taking on keeper Yann Sommer one-on-one before tapping home from close range.
The Swiss striker added a second 15 minutes later, heading over Sommer to put the match beyond doubt.
Gladbach, who host Bayern next weekend, will be looking to find the form that saw them romp to a 3-0 win over the champions earlier in the season.
Mainz overcame a recent slump to beat a disappointing Schalke 3-0 at home.
Karim Onisiwo gave the home side a narrow 1-0 lead going into half-time before late goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and another from Oniswo left Schalke sitting just two places above the relegation playoff zone.
Schalke, who pushed Manchester City all the way in their midweek Champions League clash before going down 3-2, looked sluggish in both attack and defence.
The defeat sees the pressure continuing to pile on young coach Domenico Tedesco.
Freiburg walloped relegation battlers Augsburg 5-1, with the home side causing constant problems for the visiting defence.
West Ham’s English loanee Reece Oxford was found out several times in defence leading directly to Freiburg goals, before picking up a late red card in the first minute of second-half injury-time.
In Saturday’s late game, Fortuna Duesseldorf pushed Nuremberg closer to the drop with a 2-1 home victory.
Nuremberg were down to 10 men after just four minutes, losing winger Matheus Pereira to a red card after the Brazilian attacked Niko Giesselmann off the ball.
While the visitors went 1-0 up in the 41st minute through a stunning strike from Eduard Loewen, Duesseldorf’s numerical advantage was too great.
They levelled through an own-goal in the 62nd minute before Kaan Ayhan headed the home side into the lead with just over five minutes to go.
On Sunday, Borussia Dortmund will have a chance to restore their lead at the top as they take on Peter Bosz’s resurgent Bayer Leverkusen at Signal Iduna Park.