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Drama in Stuttgart as Bayern go 11 points clear

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(L-R) Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller, James Rodriguez and Javier Martinez celebrate after Mueller scored against VfB Stuttgart on December 16, 2017 in Stuttgart © AFP / THOMAS KIENZLE

Berlin, Germany, Dec 16 – Thomas Mueller came off the bench to score the winner and Sven Ulreich saved a 95th-minute penalty as Bayern Munich won 1-0 at VfB Stuttgart on Saturday to go 11 points clear in the Bundesliga.

Mueller put the visitors ahead with 11 minutes remaining and keeper Ulreich saved Chadrac Akolo’s spot-kick leaving Bayern in pole position to win a sixth straight league title heading into the winter break.

“Sven Ulriech is worth his weight in gold to us,” said relieved Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, whose side host Borussia Dortmund in the third round of the German Cup on Wednesday.

“If the players rest and free their heads, I am confident we can beat Dortmund again.”

Bayern were frustrated by Stuttgart until Heynckes threw Mueller on for the final 25 minutes.

The Germany international delivered when Stuttgart made a rare mistake, allowing him to smash home unmarked from the edge of the area.

And Ulreich, back in goal after a groin strain, was the hero as he dived to save Akolo’s penalty after the video assistant referee confirmed Niklas Suele made contact with Santiago Ascacibar’s knee in the area.

Brazilian defender Naldo scored in the 95th minute to snatch a 2-2 draw for second-placed Schalke at Eintracht Frankfurt, as they fought back from two goals down late on to extend their 11-match unbeaten run.

“In terms of our mentality, we were very good,” said Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco.

“We always believe in ourselves and push each other – the way this team has developed is super.”

Having also scored a last-gasp equaliser when Schalke came from four goals down to sneak a 4-4 draw at arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund last month, Naldo again rescued the Royal Blues’ undefeated run in Frankfurt.

Eintracht went ahead when Luka Jovic scored with just two minutes gone and then went 2-0 up 24 minutes from time when Sebastien Haller came on to drive in their second.

Breel Embolo pulled a goal back for Schalke before Naldo hammered home from a speculative long ball to delight travelling fans and keep his team second.

– Dortmund snatch win –

Teenager Christian Pulisic, voted US Soccer’s Male Player of the Year for 2017 on Thursday, capped a great week by firing Borussia Dortmund up to third with the winning goal in a 2-1 home victory against Hoffenheim.

Pulisic’s 89th-minute strike ended Dortmund’s miserable run of seven games without a win at Signal Iduna Park dating back to September.

Hoffenheim took the lead when they attacked down the right and Mark Uth tucked away his ninth goal of the season in the first half.

Dortmund got level again when Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa was fouled in the area and Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drilled home the resulting penalty on 63 minutes for his 13th league goal of the season.

Pulisic then benefited from Kagawa’s great work in attack to tap home just before the final whistle.

“We were lucky to get the second goal, the boys tried everything and threw the kitchen sink at them,” said head coach Peter Stoeger.

The win was Dortmund’s second in a row under new boss Stoeger, who replaced Peter Bosz last Sunday, while Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim dropped to seventh.

“We were too passive in the second half, but we didn’t deserve to lose that and had the clear goal chances,” said Nagelsmann, who is widely tipped to replace Stoeger at Dortmund next season.

There was more drama at mid-table Augsburg as Iceland striker Alfred Finnbogason scored twice in injury-time to claim a hat-trick and grab a 3-3 draw against Freiburg.

Finnbogason’s treble overshadowed ex-Bayern striker Nils Petersen, who scored twice for Freiburg to make it six goals in his last three games.

Not to be outdone, strugglers Mainz also came from two down at Werder Bremen to poach a point in a 2-2 draw thanks to goals by Sweden international Robin Quaison and Swiss Fabian Frei, who equalised in the 93rd minute.

Bottom side Cologne finally picked up their first win of the season, 1-0 over Wolfsburg, thanks to Christian Clemens’ second-half winner, but remain 11 points from safety.

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