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Offensive banner sparks bizarre end to Bayern rout

Berlin (AFP) – Bayern Munich thrashed Hoffenheim 6-0 on Saturday in a game that bizarrely finished with the teams passing the ball between each other after a lengthy delay for an insulting banner in the crowd.

Players from both sides stood on the field but refused to play for the final 10 minutes of the match as the clock wound down, after a section of Bayern away fans unfurled an offensive banner which was critical of Hoffenheim benefactor Dietmar Hopp.

The entire Bayern team — along with coach Hansi Flick and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge –- approached the ultras block and pleaded with them to remove it.

The fans refused, prompting a surreal conclusion to a match in which Bayern overcame the absence of injured striker Robert Lewandowski.

With five names on the scoresheet, first impressions suggest that Bayern will have few problems replacing Lewandowski’s 25 goals during his expected month-long absence.

Bayern burst out of the blocks, with Serge Gnabry scoring the visitors’ first after just two minutes when he connected with a floating ball from Thomas Mueller.  

Joshua Kimmich made it 2-0 just five minutes later, side-footing a loose ball in the box past Oli Baumann. From there on it was one-way traffic for the 28-time Bundesliga champions.

Dutch teenager Joshua Zirkzee scored his third goal in the top flight, chipping in a ball from Kimmich in the 16th minute, before Philippe Coutinho made it 4-0 in the 33rd minute with a trademark curling strike into the top corner.

The Barcelona loanee scored his second and Munich’s fifth just two minutes after the break, toe-poking in a superb assist from Mueller, giving the latter his second of the match and his 17th assist of the season.

Leon Goretzka was the next to get on the scoresheet, profiting from an excellent team movement. Coutinho and Corentin Tolisso combined perfectly in the box before Goretzka chipped the ball over Baumann to rack up Bayern’s sixth for the day.

– Sancho difference for Dortmund –

Elsewhere, Dortmund kept pace with the league leaders with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Freiburg at a windswept Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund grabbed the lead through Jadon Sancho in the 15th minute, with the Englishman converting a pinpoint assist from Thorgan Hazard to bring up his 14th goal of the season.

Freiburg went close to finding the equaliser in a nervous final 15 minutes for the home side, however their defence held firm as they drew level on points with second-placed RB Leipzig.

Borussia Moenchengladbach also kept pace with the top of the table, moving into outright fourth with a 3-2 win away at Augsburg.

Lars Stindl scored two for the visitors, while Ramy Bensebaini also got on the scoresheet. 

Alfred Finnbogason’s 83rd minute strike –- after Eduard Loewen scored the home side’s opener in the 57th minute -– reduced the deficit to one, but the visitors closed the game out to pick up a valuable three points.

In Mainz, the home side also snared a crucial victory with a 2-0 win over fellow relegation battlers Paderborn. 

Two first-half strikes from Robin Quaison (29th minute) and Karim Onisiwo (37th) were enough to take Mainz to 15th in the table, giving them a four-point buffer on the relegation places.

In Saturday’s late game, Cologne welcome Schalke to the Rhein Energie Stadium.

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