BERLIN – Arturo Vidal’s fourth goal in as many league games shot Bayern Munich to a 1-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt and an eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Bayern’s win means that they cannot be caught before the winter break, which starts December 17, and makes them ‘Herbstmeister’ (autumn champions) for the seventh season in a row.
Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes rang the changes from Tuesday’s 3-1 win at home to Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 in the Champions League, starting midweek goal-scorers Robert Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso on the bench alongside to Germany internationals Sebastian Rudy and Mats Hummels.
The biggest shock however was that third-choice goalkeeper Tom Starke, who had been working in Bayern’s academy after retiring last season, was thrown into the fray after Sven Ulreich, who has played in place of Manuel Neuer since the Germany captain fractured his foot in September, injured his groin in the warm-up.
The 36-year-old Starke took the field after coming out of retirement in and being named in the club’s Champions League squad in September.
Frankfurt made a bright start, but Bayern grabbed what proved to be the winner on 20 minutes.
Joshua Kimmich swung in a cross which found Vidal unmarked at the back post to score in his fourth consecutive league match.
Having already picked up a first-half yellow card, Vidal narrowly escaped a red card after fouling Marius Wolf with just under 40 minutes left.
Heynckes responded by replacing the Chilean with Tolisso, but Frankfurt also almost finished with ten men.
Wolf was shown a straight red card on 72 minutes for tackling James Rodriguez from behind.
However, after consulting with the video assistant referee, the ref reversed the decision, booking Wolf instead.
Bayern extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga after RB Leipzig conceded a late equaliser in their 2-2 draw at home to Mainz, whose replacement striker Emil Berggreen equalised three minutes from time.
The hosts took the lead at Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena when midfielder Kevin Kampl fired home on 29 minutes, but Mainz equalised ten minutes later when Robin Quaison slotted home a rebound from a parried free-kick.
Germany striker Timo Werner restored Leipzig’s lead in the third minute of added time at the end of the first-half with a controversial penalty.
The decision was backed up by the VAR after Diego Demme went down in the area, but replays showed he had the faintest of touches from Mainz defender Leon Balogun.
The incident lingered, and Mainz’s disgruntled coach Sandro Schwarz was sent to the stands for the final 15 minutes before Berggreen’s late header.
Former league leaders Dortmund dropped out of the top six for the first time this season after crashing 2-1 at home to strugglers Werder Bremen.
Dortmund are without a win in their last eight league games, and the defeat could well be the last for head coach Peter Bosz.
Bremen went ahead when Germany Under-21 midfielder Maximilian Eggestein fired home unmarked at the edge of the area on 26 minutes.
The hosts got back on level terms when Shinji Kagawa’s cross hit the arm of defender Philipp Bargfrede on 57 minutes.
However, Bremen restored their lead eight minutes later when a header from Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie hit the boot of Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki on its way into the net.
Kagawa wasted a late chance to equalise for Dortmund with 15 minutes left when he fired over with the goal at his mercy after Aubameyang had slipped over.
Hamburg stay three points clear of the relegation places after their goalless draw at home to mid-table Wolfsburg.