BERLIN (Reuters) – Champions Bayern Munich opened up an eight-point lead in the Bundesliga at the start of the German season’s one-month winter break after beating Hanover 96 1-0 on Saturday amid mounting speculation over the future of coach Pep Guardiola.
With more than half a dozen players missing through injury Bayern, whose near-flawless first half to the campaign has seen them win 15 and lose just one of their 17 games, needed a Thomas Mueller penalty to prevail as second-placed Borussia Dortmund conceded two late goals in a surprise 2-1 defeat at Cologne.
But the focus was on Guardiola, who has won back-to-back German league titles in his two seasons so far, and has refused to end speculation of a move to the Premier League.
Both teams hit the woodwork in an aggressive start before the visitors were awarded a penalty for a hand ball in the 39th minute. Mueller stepped up and sent Ron-Robert Zieler the wrong way, after the keeper had earlier denied the Bavarians with a string of outstanding saves.
Dortmund dropped eight points off Bayern’s 46-point pace even though a first half header from Sokratis Papastathopoulos had given them the lead in Cologne. Simon Zoller equalised eight minutes from time after a mistake from keeper Roman Buerki and Anthony Modeste drilled in the winner in the last minute.
Mexico forward Javier Hernandez struck in the 73rd minute for his 12th goal of the season as Bayer Leverkusen edged past Ingolstadt 1-0 to climb to fourth place on 27.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ian Chadband)