Germany: Bundesliga
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FC Bayern
M. de Ligt (51)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15:30 Kickoffs: Bayern and Dortmund achieve narrow victories, Leverkusen's run continues

Everything went down to the wire in an intensely exciting set of Bundesliga 15:30 kickoffs. As the full-time whistles finally blew across the Bundesrepublik, the top four places in the table remained the same. Bayern and Dortmund are still two points apart in the title race after narrow wins.

Bayer 04 Leverksusen the big winners in terms of table-climbing, up to sixth place after a 3-1 victory over Frankfurt. Mainz are now tied with Frankfurt after a crazy 2-2 draw with Bremen. FC Köln managed to pull out a huge victory away at Augsburg. 
In one of the weekend's most highly anticipated contests, FC Bayern München were able to hang on against Freiburg in a re-match of Bayern's midweek Pokal loss. In the end, new FCB head-coach Thomas Tuchel was able to commemorate back-to-back league victories to begin his coaching regime. The German record champions also maintain first place in the Bundesliga table with seven matchdays left to be played after narrowly beating Christian Streich's Breisgauer 1-0.

FCB trainer Tuchel made two changes to the XI that started against Freiburg in the Pokal. Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry replaced Leon Goretzka and Kingsley Coman. Having to do without Eric Maxim Choupo Moting (injury) and Dayot Upamecano (suspension), Tuchel turned to Alphonso Davies and Sadio Mané. Gnabry worked as the lead striker. Joao Cancelo moved over to right back to make way for Davies whilst Benjamin Pavard slipped into central defense. Breisgauer trainer Streich - having given his players some extra time off after the Pokal victory - went with the exact same XI.

The Breisgauer hosts permitted the record champions to remain in possession of the ball, content to lay back on the press and look for opportunities on the counter. Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken was first forced into action in the 9th, stretching to parry away a Gnabry header off a Musiala cross. Some nine minutes later, Mané narrowly missed with a chip just past the far post. Leroy Sané sent an effort wide nine minutes after that. These three chances were truly all that the Bavarians could manage as the half-hour-mark came and went.

Bayern kept the pressure up and were unlucky not to open the scoring during a flurry-rush in the box in the 34th. The Black Forest club were able to get a few chances in themselves before the half was out. SCF skipper Christian Günter shot wide in the 35th. Michael Gregoritsch played Ritsu Doan through in the 44th and the Japanese international struck the post on what was an excellent opportunity. With plenty of nerves still active on both sides, the teams entered the tunnel with a 0-0 scoreline.

Four minutes after the restart, the heavy favorites were finally able to take the lead. With incursions into the penalty area proving problematic, FCB defender Matthijs code Ligt opted to have a go from distance. In a move slightly reminiscent of his round 23 tally against Stuttgart, the Dutch center-halve popped an effort towards goal from 22 meters out. De Ligt was slightly aided by a deflection off Freiburg defender Matthias Ginter on the 51st-minute 1-0.

After a potential handball penalty involving a touch from SCF striker Lucas Höler was overruled by VAR, Mané forced Flekken into another strong save in the 57th. A tactical change from Streich shortly thereafter gave the hosts a little bit more momentum. The subbed-on Roland Sallai turned up the heat in the Bayern area in the 70th. FCB keeper Yann Sommer did extremely well to somehow save a wicked effort from the Hungarian that took a tricky deflection off Cancelo.

The final phase of the game remained tense and tight. Bayern's attacking patterns weren't especially coherent and the hosts remained within striking distance of a sensational equalizer. Bayern were simply unable to put the game away. Sané flashed over in the 77th. Gnabry came close to doubling the advantage twice in second half injury time, but the 1-0 scoreline was preserved both by Flekken's paw and the post.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, Borussia Dortmund were also very narrowly able to keep pace with Bayern in the title race. Edin Terzic's Schwarzgelben prevailed over visiting 1. FC Union Berlin and took all three points with a 2-1 victory at Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund entered the final ten minutes deadlocked 1-1 with their hosts. Youssoufa Moukoko came of the bench to play the hero. Dortmund remain in second place, two points off the defending champs.

In another match with huge implications for the race for the European places, Leverkusen defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 at the Bay Arena. Xabi Alonso's Werkself extend their unbeaten run to nine games on-the-spin and are up to 6th-place in the table with the result. Frankfurt, on the other hand, are down to seventh place on 41 points after failing to win their sixth league match in a row. The contest was still competitive until Sardar Azmoun scored the 3-1 late into injury time.

FSV Mainz 05 are now tied with Eintracht on 41 points following an insane game at the MEWE Arena. All four goals in the 2-2 draw with Bremen came in the final five minutes of normal time and five minutes of added time. Ludovic Ajorque and Jens Stage traded tallies between the 85th and 87th. Mainz thought they had it won after another spectacular late goal from young phenom Nelson Weiper. The Bundesliga's leading goalscorer nevertheless had the last word. Niclas Füllkrug scored the equalizer at 90+5.

Over at the WWK-Arena in Augsburg, 1. FC Köln did themselves an enormous favor in their quest to avoid getting dragged down into the relegation race. Steffen Baumgart's goal-starved Geißböcke woke up to put three past their Bavarian hosts. Ellyes Skhiri and Eric Martel struck early to give the cathedral city guests a 2-0 lead. Linton Maina would later adda a third in the 3-1 victory. Köln pull themselves up to 12th place with the result. Augsburg, on 29 points in 13th, are now the team in danger of falling into the relegation fray.

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