Berlin (AFP) – Bundesliga players wore black armbands and took the knee in displays of support for the Black Lives Matter protests on Saturday, as Bayern Munich kept title rivals Borussia Dortmund at bay with a ninth successive win.
Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski scored his 30th league goal of the season as Bayern came from behind to claim a 4-2 victory over Bayer Leverkusen, a win which kept them seven points ahead of second-placed Dortmund, who beat Hertha Berlin 1-0.
After Lucas Alario secured an early lead for the home side, Bayern struck twice in quick succession just before half-time to turn the game in their favour after Kingsley Coman’s equaliser.
A mistake from Moussa Diaby allowed Coman to curl in the equaliser, before a fizzing shot from Leon Goretzka and an elegant lob from Serge Gnabry saw Bayern take a two-goal lead into the break.
“We didn’t start well, but I think it’s something which really distinguishes us at the moment, that we are able to fight our way back into games,” Goretzka told Sky.
Lewandowski sealed the win in the second half, equalling his most prolific Bundesliga season, although Leverkusen teenager Florian Wirtz struck late on to become the Bundesliga’s youngest-ever scorer at just 17 years and 34 days.
“We already knew he was a huge talent,” said Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz of the teenager, who beat the record set by Nuri Sahin for Borussia Dortmund in November 2005 by 48 days.
As thousands of protesters assembled in city centres across Germany, both of the country’s top two clubs also used Saturday’s games to make statements against police brutality and racism.
Dortmund players warmed up in T-shirts bearing messages of solidarity such as “no justice, no peace”, before taking the knee in the centre circle with their Hertha colleagues for a moment’s silence before kick-off.
Bayern players, meanwhile, wore black “Black Lives Matter” armbands during their rampant win over Leverkusen.
“As players, we always have the same message — we are tolerant, we are open, we are open to the world,” Bayern captain Manuel Neuer told Sky.
– Can keeps Dortmund hopes alive? –
Dortmund battled to a 1-0 home win over Hertha thanks to a second-half strike from Emre Can.
England winger Jadon Sancho, who was among the first Bundesliga players to lend his voice to the protests last weekend, missed from close range just after the break before setting up Can with a deft chip over the back line on 57 minutes.
A late equaliser from Christian Strohdiek saw bottom-of-the-table Paderborn snatch a 1-1 draw away to RB Leipzig.
Timo Werner set up Patrik Schick on 27 minutes to give Leipzig the lead, but they were forced to defend it with 10 men after Dayot Upamecano was booked twice in the first half.
Strohdiek’s last-minute strike gave Paderborn their fourth draw in five games, though Steffen Baumgart’s side remain eight points off Fortuna Duesseldorf, who occupy the relegation play-off place.
Duesseldorf themselves missed the chance to move towards safety, as they battled to a dramatic 2-2 draw against 10-man Hoffenheim.
A headed opener from Rouwen Hennings and a red card for Hoffenheim’s Benjamin Huebner put the home side in pole position.
However, the visitors struck back with goals from Munas Dabbur and Steven Zuber before Hennings saved a point with a late penalty.
Uwe Roesler’s side remain three points adrift of safety in the relegation play-off place, after goals from Moussa Niakhate and Pierre Kunde Malong gave fellow strugglers Mainz a rare win over local rivals Eintracht Frankfurt.
Having sealed a crucial win with his 77th-minute strike, Cameroon international Kunde also joined the protests, taking a knee in place of a celebration.
“I think it’s good. It isn’t a political statement, it’s just a position, and these are values that we have. For me, there is no other possible position to take,” said Mainz sporting director Rouven Schroeder.