Berlin (AFP) – Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry both scored twice as Bayern Munich romped to a 5-1 win at home to Cologne on Saturday to open up a five-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting headed Bayern into an early lead before Lewandowski, the league’s top scorer, struck twice to increase his league tally to 28 goals this season.
Gnabry came off the bench to claim two late goals behind closed doors at the Allianz Arena on his first appearance since tearing a thigh muscle in Bayern’s Club World Cup final win in Qatar.
Second-placed RB Leipzig can trim Bayern’s lead later at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick heaped praise on second-half replacements Gnabry and Thomas Mueller and singled out midfielder Leon Goretzka who set up three goals, as the “man of the match for me”.
The club world champions have a week to prepare before hosting Borussia Dortmund next Saturday and Flick said he wants to “introduce things to the team. I didn’t like one or two things today.”
Bayern had taken just a point from their previous two league games and Flick made just one change – Choupo-Moting for Kingsley Coman – from the side which routed Lazio 4-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Bayern quickly built a 2-0 lead through Choupo-Moting and Lewandowski with Goretzka playing a key role in both goals.
After floating in a cross which Choupo-Moting headed home on 18 minutes, Goretzka combined with Lewandowski to prise open the Cologne defence.
However, Cologne fought back in their bid to claim a first win in Munich since February 2011.
Midfielder Ellyes Skhiri, who also netted both goals in Cologne’s 2-1 win at Dortmund last November, chipped Manuel Neuer four minutes after the break to pull a goal back after a mistake by defenders Jerome Boateng and David Alaba.
– Gnabry adds double off bench –
With just over 25 minutes left, Flick settled nerves by bringing on Gnabry and Mueller, who made his first appearance a fortnight after testing positive for Covid-19.
A minute later, Mueller’s pass split the Cologne defence and found Lewandowski who restored the two-goal cushion.
A horrible mistake by Neuer outside his own area left the Bayern goal unattended, but Cologne midfielder Dominick Drexler could only hit the post.
Lewandowski came within a whisker of a hat-trick when he just failed to connect with Lucas Hernandez’s cross.
Gnabry was on hand to make it 4-1 before grabbing his second after Goretzka’s excellent pass, with both his goals coming in the last 10 minutes.
“When Thomas and I came on, things were still a bit dicey for us. We tried to create a bit of momentum,” Gnabry told Sky.
Wolfsburg remain third after their 2-0 home win over Hertha Berlin, whose defender Lukas Kluenter turned the ball into his own net before Maxence Lacroix scored the hosts’ second.
Wolfsburg defender Marin Pongracic was sent off in added time for a second booking.
England winger Jadon Sancho converted a penalty and Brazilian midfielder Reinier scored his first goal for the club as Dortmund stayed fifth with a 3-0 home win over Arminia Bielefeld.
Japan midfielder Wataru Endo netted his first two Bundesliga goals in Stuttgart’s 5-1 thrashing of bottom side Schalke, who saw Nabil Bentaleb have a second-half penalty saved.
On Friday, fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt had their 11-match unbeaten run ended by a shock 2-1 defeat at Werder Bremen, whose rising American star Josh Sargent, 21, hit the winning goal.