Berlin (AFP) – 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 as Bayern remained 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 a relieved Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.
Head coach Heynckes named a star-studded team, but Bayern were left frustrated until he threw Mueller on for the final 25 minutes.
The Germany international delivered in style when Stuttgart made a rare mistake, as he was allowed 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 his right 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, centre-back Naldo again rescued the Royal Blues’ unbeaten run in Frankfurt.
Eintracht raced out of the blocks when Luka Jovic beat Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann with just two minutes gone and 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 the delight of the travelling fans to keep his team second.
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.