THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FRANKFURT, Germany — Leader Bayern Munich laboured to a 2-0 victory over 10-man Freiburg, while Bayer Leverkusen won 4-1 at Werder Bremen on Wednesday to move into second place in the Bundesliga.
Leverkusen has won five of its past six games and moved past defending champion Borussia Dortmund, which drew 1-1 at home against Fortuna Duesseldorf on Tuesday.
Leverkusen is 10 points behind Bayern, which earned the unofficial title of "autumn champion" with three matches to spare before the winter break, the earliest a team has achieved that distinction.
"There are still some matches to play, we want to extend our lead," said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, who provided the pass for Vitaliy Tymoshchuk’s goal in the 79th minute that secured victory.
Dortmund travels to Munich on Saturday for the featured match of the season, trailing Bayern by 11 points.
Stuttgart edged out last-place Augsburg 2-1 and Borussia Moenchengladbach beat Wolfsburg 2-0 in other matches Wednesday. Nuremberg beat Hoffenheim 4-2, the loss putting coach Markus Babbel under more pressure.
Bayern made a fast start and earned a penalty in the 12th minute when Oliver Sorg handled the ball.
Thomas Mueller converted from the spot, although Freiburg goalkeeper Oliver Baumann got his hand on the ball but couldn’t keep it out in the 14th.
Four minutes later, Freiburg was reduced to 10 men after a red card for defender Fallou Diagne, who pulled down Xherdan Shaqiri as the Bayern midfielder raced toward goal.
Baumann then saved Franck Ribery’s free kick and Mueller wasted a good chance. Freiburg had some good chances to pull level after the break, and Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer did well to deny David Caligiuri and Max Kruse.
But Bayern put the issue beyond doubt when Lahm sent a through ball that beat the offside trap and allowed Tymoshchuk to race unopposed toward Freiburg’s goal. Baumann had to be cautious in his challenge and the Ukrainian, who came on as a substitute, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home.
"It’s tough to play in Freiburg, they are a good team," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who rested midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. "We failed to put the match away already in the first half, we missed some good chances."
Bayern is now undefeated against Freiburg in 21 consecutive matches.
In Bremen, Gonzalo Castro scored either side of halftime to put Leverkusen in control. Nils Petersen pulled one back for Werder, but Simon Rolfes and Jens Hegeler added two more for Leverkusen, which snapped Werder’s three-game winning run at home.
Ibrahima Traore scored the first goal for Stuttgart off a pass from Vedad Ibisevic, then returned the favour for Ibisevic to secure the victory. In between, Ja-cheol Koo scored for Augsburg, which is eight points from safety.
Juan Arango scored with a spectacular left-foot volley and Tony Jantschke doubled the score in Moenchengladbach, with both goals coming against the run of play.
Hiroshi Kiyotake scored the first and the last goal for Nuremberg on a rainy night. Sven Schipplock levelled through Kiyotake’s first goal. But Per Nilsson, a former Hoffenheim player, and Sebastian Polter gave Nuremberg a two-goal cushion. Sejad Salihovic converted a penalty before Kiyotake sealed the win in the 86th.