Robert Lewandowski celebrated being named world footballer of the year by sending Bayern Munich top of the Bundesliga with a stoppage-time winner in a 2-1 victory at former leaders Bayer Leverkusen.
Patrik Schick netted a stunning volley to give the previously unbeaten hosts the advantage but Lewandowski equalised with a simple header to take advantage of an opposition error in which goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky collided with defender Jonathan Tah.
They could only watch Thomas Mueller’s cross float to the unmarked Lewandowski to head into an empty net on 43 minutes.
The Poland star, who two days ago was crowned FIFA’s best male player, won the game after Tah lost possession to leave Lewandowski the space to hit a shot which deflected off Edmond Tapsoba and over the diving Hradecky.
The result ensured Bayern finished the year leading the the top-flight standings.
“It was a very important goal and a very important win,” Lewandowski told Sky.
“What a year we have had. And I hope it continues next year.”
Third-placed RB Leipzig, two points behind Bayern and level with Leverkusen, were held to a goalless draw by Cologne while new interim Schalke coach Huub Stevens failed to boost the bottom side as they lost again.
Schalke slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to third-bottom Arminia Bielefeld, extending their winless run in the Bundesliga to 29 matches after Fabian Klos was given too much room to head home.
Eighth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach lost 2-1 at home to Hoffenheim after Marcus Thuram was sent off for spitting.
Second-bottom Mainz lost 1-0 late on at home to Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt won 2-0 at fellow mid-table side Augsburg.
Leverkusen have never won the Bundesliga but finished second five times, prompting the nickname “Neverkusen”.
The way they gifted Bayern two goals and the Bundesliga lead will only reaffirm the moniker.
“(The mistakes for the goals) are really annoying,” Hradecky said.
“We didn’t deserve to lose in my opinion.
“The second one, we should just clear it, it is childish mistakes.”
Veteran Stevens, who managed Schalke three times before including for their 1997 UEFA Cup win, replaced the sacked Manuel Baum for the Bielefeld game and next Tuesday’s German Cup match with Ulm – their final game of a miserable year.
But his short appointment made no difference with promoted Bielefeld scoring on 53 minutes when Klos converted a cross.
Schalke, on just four points and seven adrift of safety, are now fast approaching Tasmania Berlin’s record of 31 Bundesliga games without a win from 1965-66.
“You can’t give up, you have to keep fighting. There is no other way, we have to stay together,” Stevens said.