Bayern blanks Schalke to keep title hopes alive

Munich, Germany (Sports Network) – Two-time defending champions Bayern Munich kept hope alive for a third-straight crown as they downed league- leaders Schalke, 2-0 at Allianz Arena on Saturday.

Roy Makaay put Bayern ahead after just three minutes and Hasan Salihamidzic added the insurance tally with 12 minutes to play, allowing Munich to move to within six points of Schalke with seven games to play, and giving manager Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side a boost of confidence ahead of their Champions League quarterfinal encounter with AC Milan on Tuesday.

The hosts got off to a dream start as Makaay found the net three minutes into the game. Bastian Schweinsteiger fed a pass through the midfield to Mark van Bommel, who quickly turned and found Makaay at the top of the box. The Dutch striker then hit the ball first-time past keeper Manuel Neuer for his 13th goal of the campaign.

The start seemed to stun Schalke, who played out the remainder of half on the defensive. Neuer snuffed out a pair of good chances from the foot of Makaay to keep his club within a goal, but Bayern were clearly in control.

After Schalke managed to threaten the Bayern goal with Christian Pander’s effort sailing just inches over the cross bar, Makaay once again forced Neuer into action after the restart. Makaay got in behind the Schalke defense but Neuer raced off his line to cut down the striker’s angle and turned his driven shot wide.

The home side always looked to be the bigger threat to score, and 12 minutes from time, Salihamidzic secured the maximum points with a big strike. After a Bayern corner, Lucio gained possession of the ball near the top of the box and threaded a pass to Salihamidzic, who stayed just onside. He then turned with the ball and blasted his shot into the roof of the net from only eight-yards out to end the suspense.

The result tightens things up in the title chase, as Schalke has won just once in its last six games, and now leads second-placed Werder Bremen by just two points after Bremen was held to a 0-0 draw by Energie.

In other Bundesliga action on Saturday, third-placed Stuttgart moved to within four points of the top after recording a 3-1 win over Aachen. Last-placed Monchengladbach got a share of the points with a 1-1 draw against Eintracht, Bayer Leverkusen got a pair of goals from Sergej Barbarez to beat Mainz 3-1 and Nurnberg bested Hertha Berlin 2-1.

Sunday’s slate features Hamburg entertaining Wolfsburg and relegation-fighting Bochum taking on Hannover.