Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich have overcome a lacklustre performance to earn a crucial 1-0 home win over Augsburg thanks to a late penalty from their master marksman Robert Lewandowski.
The Polish maestro netted his 32nd goal of the season eight minutes from time on Saturday to seal the win and move Bayern another step closer to a now-inevitable 10th straight title.
Second-placed Borussia Dortmund had won 2-0 at struggling Stuttgart on Friday, but Bayern’s somewhat fortunate win means the gap is again nine points with just five games left this term.
“The first half wasn’t good from us,” Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka told Sky. “In the second half we showed more intensity.”
Bayern had been beaten 1-0 at Villarreal in midweek in their Champions League quarter-final first leg and they again looked off the pace against fellow Bavarians Augsburg, before a debatable Reece Oxford handball opened the door.
The referee reviewed the video monitor before penalising Oxford, leaving Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl to declare: “The penalty is unlucky.”
It was potentially the decisive twist in the title race and Bayern are now almost there even if they still need to face Dortmund in Munich on April 23.
The champions had been without the injured Lucas Hernandez and the ill Niklas Sule in defence but up top, inspiration was sorely lacking so Jamal Musiala was thrown on at the break for Serge Gnabry.
Almost immediately Lewandowski went close with a header as the hosts made a big improvement.
But his fellow Pole Rafal Gikiewicz was in fine form in the Augsburg goal and expertly kept out a drive from Joshua Kimmich, who later hit the bar.
Elsewhere in the German top-flight, Wolfsburg overran third-bottom Arminia Bielefeld 4-0 thanks in part to two Lukas Nmecha goals, Cologne came back from 2-0 down to beat Mainz 3-2 and bottom side Greuther Furth lost 2-0 at home to Borussia Monchengladbach.