Bastian Schweinsteiger scored the only goal of the game as Bayern Munich beat in-form Hertha Berlin to all but secure the Bundesliga title.
The Bavarian giants knew victory at the Allianz Arena on Saturday would practically end Wolfsburg’s slim hopes of denying them a third consecutive league success, but had to wait until 10 minutes from time for Schweinsteiger to secure all three points.
Wolfsburg can delay Bayern’s official coronation by winning at Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday, but Pep Guardiola’s side would still be 12 points clear with a vastly superior goal difference heading into the final four rounds of fixtures.
Bayern hammered Porto 6-1 in midweek to set up a UEFA Champions League semi-final against the head coach’s former club Barcelona and remain on course for a famous treble, with a DFB-Pokal semi-final against Borussia Dortmund to come on Tuesday.
Hertha have now lost their last eight games against the champions, but gave a great account of themselves and had a clear chance to open the scoring when Nico Schulz was denied by Manuel Neuer when clean through in the second half.
Germany captain Schweinsteiger proved to be the match-winner on his return to the starting line-up, though, applying a fine finish soon after hitting the post.
Hertha would have been forgiven for heading into the game with some trepidation following Bayern’s midweek display, but they could have been in front after only 13 minutes when an unmarked Valentin Stocker volleyed wide from close range at the back post.
Guardiola’s men were soon playing with their usual swagger and Robert Lewandowski came close with a header which looped just wide of the far post.
Hertha were clearly not lacking confidence themselves, though, and Salomon Kalou should have done better when he cut inside the penalty area from the left but blazed a wild shot well off target.
The champions lost their way in what transpired to be a frustrating half as Pal Dardai’s side more than held their own.
Teenage midfielder Sinan Kurt made his Bundesliga debut as a half-time substitute, with fellow youngster Gianluca Gaudino withdrawn by Guardiola.
Bayern looked vulnerable at the back and ought to have been behind 10 minutes into the second half, when Schulz raced clear from the halfway line, only for Neuer to pull off a fine save from the Hertha man’s measured finish.
Schweinsteiger snatched at a chance from close range after Hertha goalkeeper Sascha Burchert flapped at a corner from the left as the opening goal continued to be elusive.
Burchert also produced a fine reflex save to keep out a Lewandowski header and Schweinsteiger clipped the post before eventually popping up with the winner.
Mitchell Weiser was the architect, surging to the byline and pulling the ball back for Schweinsteiger to apply a composed finish.
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