Bayern closes in on Bundesliga

Bayern's Kingsley Coman, center right, who scored his side's first goal, celebrates with Bayern's Thomas Mueller, second left, during the German Bundesliga soccer match between VfL Wolfsburg and FC Bayern Munich in Wolfsburg, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich captain Thomas Müller scored on a rare start as the defending champion took another step toward a record-extending 11th consecutive Bundesliga title by routing Schalke 6-0 on Saturday.

Bayern moved four points clear of Borussia Dortmund before the late game. Dortmund could restore the one-point gap by beating Borussia Mönchengladbach at home, while it must also maintain hope in Bayern dropping points in its final two games.

Bayern next plays Leipzig and Cologne, while Dortmund plays Augsburg and Mainz for its last games of the season.

Bayern missed a couple of good chances before Müller finally made the breakthrough in the 21st minute. Müller, who is captain while Manuel Neuer works on his comeback from a broken leg, was making his first start since April 22.

“I was happy to get the ‘can-opener’ today. It was a brilliant feeling. The stadium exploded – and then we kept going,” Müller said.

Joshua Kimmich made it 2-0 10 minutes later with a penalty awarded through VAR after Cedric Brunner caught Jamal Musiala in the face with his arm. The Schalke defender was booked and Musiala showed no lasting damage.

Serge Gnabry added two more goals in the second half, Mathys Tel added another, and Noussair Mazraoui completed the scoring in injury time.

It continued a long tradition of Bayern routing Schalke. Schalke hasn’t beaten the Bavarian powerhouse in 23 league games since a victory in December 2010, with Bayern clocking up 71 goals in that run.

UNION DREAMING

Union Berlin made its own big step toward Champions League qualification after winning at home over chief rival Freiburg 4-2. Union’s win lifted it three points clear of fifth-placed Freiburg. The top four qualify for Europe’s premier competition.

Sheraldo Becker set up Kevin Behrens to put Union ahead in the fifth minute, then scored the second himself in the 36th after surging past a couple of defenders and playing a one-two with Robin Knoche before shooting between Freiburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken’s legs.

Becker celebrated with a Spiderman mask, for which he was booked, and he responded a minute later with another goal, again set up by Knoche.

But Vincenzo Grifo sent in a corner for Manuel Gulde to head one back for Freiburg in the 56th, then added a penalty in the 70th to ensure an exciting finale.

But the outstanding Becker wasn’t finished, sprinting clear after Jordan Pefok won the ball in midfield and setting up Aïssa Laïdouni to seal the win on a counterattack in the 80th. It was Laïdouni’s first goal for Union since his winter switch from Ferencvaros. Few can be as important.

BOCHUM BREAK

Bochum climbed out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 win over Augsburg. Bochum moved a point above Schalke with two games remaining.

Also, Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Mainz 3-0 and Wolfsburg enjoyed a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, which is just a point above Bochum.

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