Bayern survive penalty drama as Nuremberg keep Dortmund in title hunt
Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac hailed a “crazy” Bundesliga title race after his side missed the chance to pull away from rivals Borussia Dortmund with a dramatic 1-1 draw at lowly Nuremberg on Sunday.
A late penalty miss from Tim Leibold spared Bayern from a humiliating defeat, before Kingsley Coman missed a golden opportunity to win the game at the other end.
“It is amazing what happened in the last five minutes there,” Kovac told Sky.
“The Bundesliga is just crazy, we saw that yesterday and today.”
Bayern had the chance to go four points clear at the top of the table with three games to go after title rivals Borussia Dortmund lost 4-2 to Schalke on Saturday.
Yet there was another twist in the tale on Sunday, as a disciplined Nuremberg side kept Bayern at bay for long periods to earn a well-deserved point and keep Dortmund’s title hopes alive.
“We knew that we had a big chance today, so the atmosphere wasn’t that great in the dressing room after the game, but it is still all to play for,” Bayern’s David Alaba told Sky.
Bayern looked nervous from the outset, and nearly went behind when goalkeeper Sven Ulreich misjudged a backpass from Mats Hummels in the first half.
Matheus Pereira put Nuremberg ahead with a brilliant strike from the edge of the area in the 48th minute.
Serge Gnabry grabbed a scrappy equaliser with 15 minutes to go, scuffing the ball over the goalkeeper Christian Mathenia at the far post.
– Baumann blunder –
Kovac denied that there had been a disagreement with Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez, who was substituted off just 15 minutes after being brought on in the second half.
The Bayern coach said that Rodriguez, with whom he has had a rocky relationship in the past, had picked up a calf strain.
It was Rodriguez’s replacement Alphonso Davies who gave away the late penalty with a handball.
Yet Leibold struck the ball against the post to deny Nuremberg an unlikely and valuable win in the relegation fight.
Bayern are now two points ahead of Dortmund with three games to go. They face a tough trip to RB Leipzig in two weeks’ time before hosting top-four side Eintracht Frankfurt on the last day of the season.
“We are one more point ahead now, but the situation hasn’t really changed. We need to pick up seven points from the last three games,” said Kovac.
In Sunday’s earlier game, Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann fluffed two routine saves as his side lost 4-1 to Wolfsburg and missed the chance to move within a point of the top four.
The usually reliable Baumann was beaten at his near post by Wout Weghorst and Maximilian Arnold as Wolfsburg came from behind to win.
Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric missed a penalty after Adam Szalai had given them the lead, and Wolfsburg’s William curled in a superb equaliser.
Baumann’s mistakes, and a late second goal for Weghorst sealed the win for Wolfsburg, which brings them to within a point of Hoffenheim in eighth.
“It is really annoying because I saved pretty much everything else,” Baumann told Sky.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side remain on course for a Europa League berth in seventh, but are four points adrift of the top four.