Germany: Bundesliga
FT
2 - 5
(1 - 2)
Darmstadt
FC Bayern
T. Skarke (28), O. Vilhelmsson (90)
J. Musiala (36), H. Kane (45), J. Musiala (64), S. Gnabry (74), M. Tel (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15:30 Kickoffs: Musiala leads Bayern to victory, Mainz secure vital win, Wolfsburg woes continue

An interesting set of results in the Bundesliga's latest set of 15:30 kickoffs adds plenty of intrigue to what had been considered a three-horse relegation race. A big win for Bo Henriksen's FSV Mainz 05 places pressure both on Mainz's defeated opponents VfL Bochum and the once-again defeated VfL Wolfsburg.

FC Union Berlin were able to secure a massively important home win over Bremen while Gladbach could only manage an away draw at Heidenheim. German record champions FC Bayern München continue to roll with another high-scoring 5-2 win over lowly Darmstadt. 
A frankly sensational match from Germany's Jamal Musiala helped Thomas Tuchel's FC Bayern München claim their third consecutive victory on-the-spin Saturday afternoon. The young German phenom from Stuttgart scored two goals and set up another tally in Bayern's 5-2 dispatching of Torsten Lieberknecht's lowly SV Darmstadt 98. The defending champs keep the pressure on Bayer 04 Leverkusen with a win that shaves the gap behind the league leaders back down to seven points. Xabi Alonso's Werkself have a chance to restore their ten-post cushion with a win away against Freiburg tomorrow.

Tuchel made two changes to the XI that began against Mainz last week. Newly called up German international Aleksandar Pavlovic returned from his accumulated yellow card suspension to take the place of Konrad Laimer. Raphaël Guerreiro - who replaced the injured Alphonso Davies early in the Mainz thrashing - also played from the start. Bayern again lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Lieberknecht introduced three new players to the side that debuted against Leipzig. Captain Fabian Holland returned to the lineup, as did Mathias Honsak and Jannik Müller. Gerrit Holtmann, Andreas Müller, and Fabio Torisello were the three players to make way. Tim Skarke moved back up from his left fullback position to work as a striker alongside Oscar Vilhelmsson.

The hosting Hessians largely kept Bayern away from goal in a well-staggered 4-4-2 formation. Physical alterations between players on the pitch served as the only real highlights in the opening quarter-of-an-hour. Despite lording over upwards of 80 percent possession, Bayern could only manage distance efforts from Leroy Sané and Joshua Kimmich. Kane sent an effort wide in the 16th.

Bayern simply couldn't get the opener and were eventually punished when Skarke scored the opening goal in the 28th. Honsak picked up a poorly-headed Eric Dier clearance, dribbling past several markers impressively before setting up a wide-open Skarke for the 1-0. The response from the record champions was strong and swift, yet a genuine scoring chance eluded Tuchel's charges until the equalizer was scored.

Pavlovic forced his way into the penalty area in the 36th before laying off for Harry Kane. The Englishman's cross - with the help of a deflection - found Jamal Musiala's feet. The German phenom smashed home the the 1-1. Following more Bayern dominance, it was Kane's turn to score in the first minute of injury time. Kane headed home the 2-1 off a Kimmich cross at 45+1.

To their credit, Darmstadt nearly equalized themselves before it was time to head into the tunnel. Vilhelmsson struck the crossbar after a nice give-and-go with Honsak at 45+2. Lengthy injury timeouts involving Pavlovic and Christoph Klarer - both who had to ultimately exit proceedings precluded either team from getting into much of a rhythm for the opening 15 minutes of the second half.

Musiala finally made matters more comfortable for the Bavarians with a fine solo dribble off a quick Thomas Müller throw in the 64th. The 21-year-old was a little lucky that his finish deflected in, but most certainly deserved his scorer's brace after dancing past several markers on the 3-1. Musiala continued to shine with a spectacular through ball for Serge Gnabry on the 4-1 in the 74th.

Gnabry scored off the bench for the second consecutive week. Musiala was far from finished and nearly collected collected a hat trick on two further chances. The youngster was highly unlucky to strike the crossbar after chipping past Schuhen in the 28th. Musiala nearly collected a second assist with a clever heeled set up of the subbed on Laimer in the 88th.

There was some excitement in second half injury time as Vilhelmsson and FCB sub Mathys Tel traded goals. The final scoreline (5-2) ended up producing just one fewer goal than Bayern's 8-0 demolition of the Lilies in the Hin-runde. Lieberknecht's last-placed Lilies remain rock bottom of the Bundesliga on 13 points. Some of the other results on the day nevertheless accord them some hope.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, the rapidly deteriorating case of VfL Wolfsburg trainer Niko Kovac was not helped by a 1-3 home defeat against visiting Augsburg. Kovac's German Wolves played a decent first half and were set to take a 1-0 lead into the tunnel. A red card for VfL attacker Patrick Wimmer at 45+1 and an Augsburg equalizer nevertheless placed Germany's green company team in a precarious position.

The visiting Fuggerstädter went on to score two more against shorthanded Wolfsburg in the second 45. SGE loanee Kristijan Jakic collected a scorer's brace. Die Wölfe - who are almost certain to sack their trainer now - remain winless in 11 fixtures since beating Darmstadt on match-day six back on December 16th. Augsburg have now won four straight. Wolfsburg are at their historically worst points total (25) at this stage in the season.

Down south at the MEWA Arena in Mainz, Bo Henriksen's Nullfünfter were able to supply some unexpected intrigue to the Bundesliga's increasingly narrow relegation race. A 2-0 win for Mainz over relegation rivals VfL Bochum pulls the Rheinhessen - following Köln's loss last night - up to the relegation playoff place. Former German youth international Jonathan Burkardt claimed a brace in the victory.

Mainz are now just six points behind Bochum in the table's final safe spot. While Bochum (25 points) and Wolfsburg (also on 25 points) suddenly qualify as team's that can be overtaken, Union Berlin pulled themselves away from the relegation pack with a massive 2-1 home win over SV Werder Bremen. American attacker Brenden Aaronson suddenly sprung to life on two FCU goals that came in quick succession between the 50th and 52nd.

One final match with little relevance apart from the fact that two mid table sides earned a point took place at the Voith Arena in Heidenheim. Frank Schmidt's FCH and Gerardo Seoane's Borussia Mönchengladbach split the difference in a 1-1 draw. Robin Hack scored once again for the foals while Eren Dinkçi secured his eighth league goal of the campaign.

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