Bayern Munich have won the last ten Bundesliga titles but, while few would bet against them not winning an eleventh, a defeat at Bayer Leverkusen has left them trailing Borussia Dortmund with nine games remaining in Germany.
Bayer was indebted to VAR, defeating Bayern with the aid of two penalties both given by the technology-assisted referee.
“It was the perfect example today of great collaboration with the video assistant,” referee Tobias Stieler said.
“He gets a lot of complaints and is always very harshly criticised. Today it was a lifesaver for the game.”
Joshua Kimmich put Bayern ahead in rainy Leverkusen against the run of play in the first half on Sunday. But Exequiel Palacios levelled from the spot on 55 minutes after a video review showed Benjamin Pavard had felled Amine Adli – the forward had initially been booked for diving.
Adli then went down under Dayot Upamecano’s sliding tackle and again was shown yellow for simulation. But again referee Tobias Stieler was called to the monitor and reversed his decision, Argentina’s Palacios picking the same corner to make it 2-1 in the 73rd.
“It was a very important game for us. We knew that before the game but were unable to show it on the field over the 90 minutes, and we’ll need to ask ourselves why,” Bayern forward Thomas Mueller said.
Former Germany midfielder Sami Khedira watched as his brother Rani Khedira led Union Berlin to third with a 2-0 win over visiting Eintracht Frankfurt.
Rani Khedira was captain in place of the absent Christopher Trimmel and he broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute with the final say in a goalmouth scramble after a corner.
His older brother, who won 77 caps and last played for city rival Hertha Berlin before retiring in 2021, tried capturing the celebrations on his mobile phone.
Frankfurt had created more chances but were regularly denied by goalkeeper Frederik Ronnow.
Kevin Behrens sealed the win after a long kick from Ronnow in the 75th.
The win stretched Union’s unbeaten run at home in the league to 18 games and lifted them within four points of Bayern.
Freiburg joined Union on 48 points, but dropped to fourth on goal difference, after conceding in the 96th minute to draw 1-1 at Mainz.
Ritsu Doan’s second-half opener for the visitors was cancelled out by substitute Karim Onisiwo, who helped Mainz consolidate ninth.
– with DPA