Philippe Coutinho scored a hat-trick as Bayern Munich signalled their return to form with a 6-1 thrashing of Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on Saturday, while RB Leipzig took over first place.
The Barcelona loanee was everywhere for Munich at the Allianz Arena, chalking up two assists in addition to his three goals, but Bayern remain six points adrift of Leipzig.
Julian Nagelsmann’s ambitious side replaced Borussia Moenchengladbach at the top following a comfortable 3-0 victory at Fortuna Duesseldorf.
Bayern had lost their previous two games in the Bundesliga and appeared to be in for another long afternoon when the champions fell behind to Bremen midfielder Milot Rashica’s goal in the 24th minute.
Two goals in three minutes at the end of the first half however turned the game on its head, with Coutinho and Robert Lewandowski both scoring to fire Bayern into a 2-1 lead.
Bayern ran riot after the break, adding four more goals - including two more for Coutinho, one more for Lewandowski and a goal for Thomas Mueller. Coutinho’s second, a brilliant chip over keeper Jiri Pavlenka, came right out of the Brazilian trickster’s top drawer.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick praised Coutinho’s performance as “just great”.
“It was great fun for everyone to see how he performed. What made me particularly happy was the way that the team really celebrated his efforts – it was from the heart.
“We’re all incredibly pleased with the effort he put in today.”
Coutinho’s form has been questioned since he arrived from Barcelona in the summer, however he was given a standing ovation by the Bayern crowd when subbed off in the 82nd minute.
Singh makes history
He was brought off for another summer arrival Sarpreet Singh, who became the first player of Indian descent – and just the second New Zealander – to play in the Bundesliga.
Bayern defender David Alaba said after the game that his side didn’t panic when they went behind, knowing they had the quality to reel in the visitors.
“You saw the character that our team has – we completely turned the match in the moments before half-time,” he said.
Leipzig recorded their sixth straight win against Fortuna to move two points clear of Gladbach.
The visitors opened the scoring after just two minutes, with Patrik Schick volleying in a cross from Konrad Laimer.
Timo Werner then scored a penalty in the 58th minute to bring up his 16th goal of the season, before defender Nordi Mukiele put the game beyond doubt in the 75th minute with Leipzig’s third.
Nagelsmann said his side’s focus was not directed at securing top spot, but rather at how things can be improved ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Borussia Dortmund.
“We missed a few chances in the first half. We controlled the game really well in the second,” he said.
“These are three very important points. We were able to hold something back at the end with Tuesday’s big game in mind.”
Dortmund continued their superb recent form, winning 4-0 away at Mainz to keep hold of third place.
Marco Reus scored his first away goal of the season with a stunning volley from the edge of the box, before Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard and Nico Schulz all scored in the second half.
Sancho has now scored in six games in a row for Dortmund, while Schulz’s goal was his first in Dortmund colours.
In Berlin, Hertha registered their first victory under former Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann, winning 1-0 over a disappointing Freiburg courtesy of a Vladimir Darida goal in the 53rd minute.
Struggling Cologne picked up a vital three points at home against nine-man Bayer Leverkusen to take them off the bottom of the table. Leverkusen lost Aleksandar Dragovic and Leon Bailey to red cards in a 15-minute period in the second half and were unable to hold on as Cologne won 2-0.
Union Berlin’s recent run of victories came to an end following a 1-1 draw against lowly Paderborn. Union, who had won four of their last five, started well, scoring through Marcus Ingvartsen in the seventh minute, before Paderborn equalised via Kai Proger.
Gladbach have a chance to return top away to Wolfsburg on Sunday, while Schalke host Eintracht Frankfurt.