MUNICH, Germany :Bayern Munich struck three times in a punishing first half to ease past Union Berlin 3-0 on Sunday to confirm their status as title favourites and leave the Berliners, following their first league loss of the year, three points behind.
Bayern successfully bounced back from last week's loss to Borussia Moenchengladbach, delivering a supreme first half performance that kept them in first place on 46 points, ahead of Borussia Dortmund on goal difference. Union are third on 43.
There was more good news for the Bavarians with forward Sadio Mane making his comeback after more than three months as a second-half substitute following his injury in November.
Bayern, who host Paris St Germain on March 8 for their Champions League last 16 return leg, delivered punch after punch in a fierce start, giving their opponents no chance to chance.
"This was a very active game," said Bayern's Thomas Mueller who played his 650th match for the club in all comeptitions. "It is this activity that we need in order to play our game.
"We combined really well and moved well. Now we have to keep delivering every week. It was a small start to the way we want to play football."
The champions were in complete control with about 70 per cent possession and Mueller failed to connect in front of goal after superb early work from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in the fifth minute.
Choupo-Moting did it better in the 31st, looping his header from a Kingsley Coman cross over goalkeeper Frederik Ronnow for the lead. The Cameroon striker, who scored for the first time against Union, has now found the back of the net against every current team in the German top-flight.
Coman then turned scorer, rounding the keeper to slot in their second before Jamal Musiala turned in a Mueller cutback in stoppage time to kill off the game after 45 minutes and celebrate his 20th birthday with his 11th league goal.
Union, who had won five of their six previous league games in 2023 to remain in the title race, were on the backfoot after the break as well and had keeper Ronnow to thank for keeping the score low with a string of outstanding saves.
In Sunday's other match, Freiburg drew 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen to drop to fifth place on 41 points.