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BERLIN: Bayer Leverkusen were held to a goalless draw at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday as their lead over Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga was cut to two points.
Xabi Alonso’s side had started the day four points clear but after Bayern’s 3-2 victory over Augsburg earlier in the afternoon, the pressure was on Leverkusen, the only unbeaten team in Germany’s top-flight.
The hosts dominated with 75 percent of the ball but couldn’t make the breakthrough.
The game’s biggest chances fell to Jeremie Frimpong, but the Dutchman was wasteful as Leverkusen struggled without their injured talisman Victor Boniface, whose 10 goals in 16 league games have spearheaded Leverkusen’s title charge.
Leverkusen will host Bayern in a crunch clash on February 10.
Leverkusen coach Alonso, who has led the club into a title race they hadn’t expected at the start of the season, has been strongly linked with replacing Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool coach, following the German’s shock decision to leave at the end of the season.
Alonso, a Champions League winner as a player with Liverpool in 2005, was asked again about Klopp’s decision ahead of Saturday’s game.
“It’s a shock and a pity. But I’m concentrating on my team, I’m happy to be here,” he told Sky Sports Germany.
Bayern Munich had closed the gap on Alonso’s side after Augsburg had endured hit and miss late penalty drama.
Bayern had come into the game having got back on track in midweek with a 1-0 win over Union Berlin after a shock 1-0 home defeat by Werder Bremen last weekend.
With Dayot Upamecano limping off with a hamstring problem against Union, and joining Bayern’s growing injury list, Eric Dier made his first start as Alphonso Davies also returned to the starting line-up after being dropped in midweek.
But it was another player drafted into Thomas Tuchel’s starting XI who got things rolling for Bayern.
Making just his fourth start in the league, 19-year-old German midfielder Aleksandar Pavlovic, deputising for the injured Joshua Kimmich, steered the ball in from close range after 23 minutes when Augsburg failed to clear a corner.
Davies let fly from distance deep into first half stoppage time to give Bayern a two-goal cushion.
Ermedin Demirovic’s glancing header early in the second half lifted the mood of the home fans, until Harry Kane tapped in Leon Goretzka’s cross just before the hour mark to give Bayern breathing space.
A clumsy foul by Manuel Neuer saw Augsburg awarded an 88th minute penalty, but the Bayern goalkeeper atoned with a fine save from Sven Michel’s spot-kick.
Augsburg won another penalty, in stoppage time, after a trip by substitute Thomas Mueller.
This time Neuer could do nothing about Demirovic’s powerful penalty, but it was too little too late for Augsburg.
Bayern turn up the heat on Leverkusen but yet another injury, this time to French winger Kingsley Coman, soured a priceless victory for Tuchel.
In another key game at the top, Deniz Undav scored a hat-trick as Stuttgart thrashed RB Leipzig 5-2 to keep alive their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Borussia Dortmund will have the chance to leapfrog Leipzig and enter the top four with victory over Bochum on Sunday.