No Ballack, but still Bayern too strong for Bochum

BERLIN: Runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich stayed comfortably on course for another league crown with an impressive 4-1 victory at modest VfL Bochum on Saturday. 

Bayern built their victory before the break with headed goals from Peru striker Claudio Pizarro and Brazilian forward Elber and stayed on top after the interval with Croatia midfielder Niko Kovac and France defender Willy Sagnol doubling their advantage. 

The Munich club, who have not lost in Bochum for 18 years, did not seem to suffer too much from the absence of injured playmaker Michael Ballack, outplaying their hosts to close in on an 18th German title. 

Bochum, who dropped two spots down to 12th in the 18-strong table, reduced the arrears in stoppage time through striker Thomas Christiansen. 

“Our goal was to keep them under pressure and we did that well,” said Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who hinted his men could have won by a higher margin. 

“Once we were 3-0 up the game was decided and that allowed us to slow down a little and spare some energy,” he added. 

Bayern, reduced to chasing domestic silverware since bowing out of Europe, remained 13 points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund. 

Defending champions Dortmund beat Hanover 96 2-0 courtesy of a first-half goal from Germany midfielder Torsten Frings and one from substitute Leandro after the interval. 

The title race looks almost decided but the battle against relegation remains exciting. 

Four-time German champions Kaiserslautern suggested they could survive it with a brave 3-1 win over bottom club Energie Cottbus. 

Goals from Germany striker Miroslav Klose, Bulgaria midfielder Marian Hristov and Czech forward Vratislav Lokvenc presented the south-westerners with their first away victory of the season. 

Kaiserslautern, who have now gone seven matches without defeat, leave the relegation zone by moving two spots up to 14th. 

“You have to win matches like this one when you're fighting against relegation,” said Kaiserslautern coach Eric Gerets. 

“This is an important victory but we're not safe yet,” he added. 

Bayer Leverkusen, who have collapsed after narrowly missing out on three titles last season, face a struggle after a 1-1 draw with VfL Wolfsburg that left them in 15th place. 

Germany midfielder Bernd Schneider missed a penalty in the first half for last season's Bundesliga runners-up and losing Champions League and German Cup finalists. – Reuters 

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