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Late own goal puts Bayern on brink of title

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - A second-string Bayern Munich team snatched a 2-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday thanks to a late own goal to stay 20 points clear at the top and on track for their first Bundesliga crown since 2010.

Mario Gomez fired the Bavarians into the lead with a superb solo effort in 37th minute but Simon Rolfes grabbed the equaliser in the 75th.

Bayern, who will lift the title if they win their next match and second-placed Borussia Dortmund draw, avenged their only league defeat this season when Bastian Schweinsteiger's 87th-minute free kick deflected into the net off Philipp Wollscheid's shoulder.

Dortmund demolished Freiburg 5-1 with two goals apiece from Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski and playmaker Nuri Sahin to sprint four points clear of third-placed Leverkusen.

Bayern have 69 points with eight games left, Dortmund are on 49 and Leverkusen 45.

Coach Jupp Heynckes made half a dozen changes to the Bayern team that edged past Arsenal on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, with Gomez replacing the club's top scorer Mario Mandzukic.

The Germany forward made the most of a rare start when he picked up a Xherdan Shaqiri cross, left Daniel Carvajal and Sebastian Boenisch trailing in his wake and drilled the ball in from 15 metres for his seventh league goal of the season.

Bayern were the better side for much of the game and went close on the stroke of halftime when a Luiz Gustavo header was cleared off the line by Gonzalo Castro.

Heynckes then took Gomez off and replaced winger Arjen Robben with central defender Daniel van Buyten and Leverkusen got back in the game as Rolfes poked in a corner at the far post.

Bayern, though, hit back with the late own goal earning maximum points.

DORTMUND DEMOLITION

Champions Dortmund, who face Malaga in next month's Champions League quarter-finals, netted three times in four minutes at the end of the first half and Lewandowski set a club record by scoring in his eighth straight league game.

Jonathan Schmid had given eighth-placed Freiburg a 28th-minute lead but Lewandowski levelled 13 minutes later.

Turkey midfielder Sahin made it 2-1 before Poland striker Lewandowski added a third with a brilliant individual goal in stoppage time, his 19th of the season in the league.

Sahin, who returned to Dortmund in the January transfer window after unhappy spells at Real Madrid and Liverpool, grabbed his second goal in the 72nd minute.

Lewandowski then did well to set up the talented Leonardo Bittencourt for his first Bundesliga goal six minutes later.

"It was a deserved victory although I can understand Freiburg are a bit frustrated because no-one expected this result at four o'clock," said Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp.

For Sahin, it was his best display since returning to the club.

"Finally it all fell into place today," said Sahin. "My coach trusted in me throughout and I knew I was a bit impatient but today it worked perfectly."

Schalke 04, knocked out of the Champions League by Galatasaray in midweek, lost 3-0 at Nuremberg to drop to fifth on 39 points.

The visitors hit the woodwork through Julian Draxler and Benedikt Hoewedes but could not make a breakthrough as Nuremberg moved up to 11th with 34 points.

Hamburg SV, missing injured playmaker Rafael van der Vaart, lost ground in the battle for a Europa League spot, slumping to a 1-0 home defeat by third from bottom Augsburg after a goal by Jan-Ingwer Callsen Braker.

Hamburg, seventh on 38 points, had Maximilian Beister sent off for a rough challenge in the 80th minute.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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