BERLIN (AFP) - Thomas Mueller marked his return from five weeks out with injury by creating two goals as Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich went six points clear with a 3-1 win over Hanover on Saturday (Dec 2).
Germany forward Mueller provided the cross which Arturo Vidal headed home, then set up Kingsley Coman to put Bayern 2-1 up at the Allianz Arena after Charlison Benschop had equalised for Hanover.
Robert Lewandowski, the Bundesliga's top scorer, converted a late penalty to claim his 14th goal in as many games for Bayern this season.
"We had plenty of chances to score, which unfortunately we did not use, but I think the victory is deserved," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes.
"Thomas Mueller played again after a long time out, Kingsley Coman was injured for two weeks and Jerome Boateng is slowly returning to form, so I am optimistic for the rest of our games (in 2017)." The victory restored Bayern's healthy cushion at the summit after their shock defeat at Borussia Moenchengladbach last weekend.
It also boosts confidence before Tuesday's home Champions League showdown against Paris Saint-Germain, who the Germans must by four goals to win their group.
Bayern extended their lead over second-placed RB Leipzig, who suffered a club record 4-0 defeat at Hoffenheim.
Midfielder Nadiem Amiri scored from a tight angle on 13 minutes, with Germany winger Serge Gnabry netting Hoffenheim's second on 52 minutes after the Leipzig defence was caught napping.
Gnabry added Hoffenheim's third on 62 minutes with a stunning long-range effort from near the centre circle, firing into an empty net with Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi off his line, before Mark Uth added a late fourth.
The result is a blow for Leipzig, who likely must beat Besiktas on Wednesday to keep alive hopes of reaching the Champions League last 16 at the first attempt.
"I saw a lot today, but not much was good and certainly not enough to win," grumbled Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl.
Schalke later squandered the chance to swap third for second as they were held to a 2-2 draw at home to bottom side Cologne.
French winger Sehrou Guirassy scored a first-half goal and converted a second-half penalty as Cologne twice came from behind after Guido Bergstaller and Amine Harit scored for Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.
Cologne's Japan striker Yuya Osako was sent off in the dying stages for a second yellow card after diving to try to win a penalty.
Schalke are unbeaten in their last nine games while Cologne are rooted to the bottom - 11 points from safety.
DORTMUND BACK BOSZ
After throwing away a four-goal lead in the 4-4 draw with Schalke last Saturday, the pressure on Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Bosz intensified further as his team's winless league run stretched to seven games.
Despite playing against 10 men for nearly 50 minutes, Dortmund could only draw 1-1 at Bayer Leverkusen.
There was more bad news with midfielders Maximilian Philipp and Gonzalo Castro having both picked up serious injuries, according to director of sport Michael Zorc.
Kevin Volland's first-half goal for Leverkusen was cancelled out by a late equaliser from Dortmund winger Andrey Yarmolenko as the visitors struggled to break down Bayer, who had Wendell sent off after 40 minutes.
The Brazilian left-back saw a red card on 40 minutes for a crude tackle on Dortmund midfielder Gonzalo Castro.
Despite Dortmund's dire form, Zorc insists they have not contacted other coaches to replace Bosz.
"No, we want to turn things around with Peter Bosz - that is our most urgent task," said Zorc.
Augsburg are up to seventh after their 3-1 win at Mainz as Iceland striker Alfred Finnbogason netted a penalty before adding a late third.
Werder Bremen remain 17th even though striker Max Kruse scored his fourth goal in two games to seal a 1-0 win at home to Stuttgart.