Bayern Munich increased the pressure on Borussia Dortmund with a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin to move level on points with the Bundesliga leader on Saturday.
Midfielder Javi Martinez, who excelled in the 0-0 draw at Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday, completed a fine week by scoring Bayern’s winner midway through the second half.
Bayern, which trailed by nine points at one stage, stayed second due to Dortmund’s better goal difference.
Dortmund can restore its three-point lead with a win at home over Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday, but captain Marco Reus is out injured, Dortmund has failed to win in the last three league games, and Leverkusen is on a four-game winning run.
Bayern had a score to settle with Hertha after losing 2-0 in Berlin earlier in the season and being pushed to extra time before progressing from their German Cup tie earlier this month.
Bayern coach Niko Kovac rewarded Martinez for his good performance in Liverpool with another start, while Leon Goretzka was back after an ankle injury and Franck Ribery also started.
But it was Hertha that had the best early chances. Davie Selke had an early goal ruled out for offside, before Jerome Boateng was forced to clear another good chance. Another Selke effort was only cleared off the line by Joshua Kimmich early in the second half.
Hertha coach Pal Dardai’s plan for keeping the home side at bay functioned perfectly until Martinez broke the deadlock with a header from James Rodriguez’ corner in the 62nd minute.
Kingsley Coman, who came on in the 58th for Ribery, had to go off with an apparent left thigh injury nine minutes later.
Hertha’s Karim Rekik was sent off late after a tussle with Robert Lewandowski. Both players clashed but Rekik had his arm raised and Lewandowski dropped to the ground.
SCHALKE WOES CONTINUE
Schalke, which lost 3-2 to 10-man Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, slumped to another chastening defeat, 3-0 against a Mainz side that had lost its previous three games.
The club announced immediately afterward that sporting director Christian Heidel had tendered his resignation and would quit at the end of the season at the latest.
Heidel achieved great success in the same role at Mainz, but was coming under increased pressure due to Schalke’s troubles this season. Domenico Tedesco’s side is languishing 14th in the 18-team league, seven points clear of Stuttgart in the relegation zone.
Schalke’s 23 points from 23 games is its worst league-tally for 36 years. The Gelsenkirchen-based club was relegated in 1983.
FORTRESS NO MORE
Third-place Borussia Moenchengladbach had won all its home games this season until Hertha grabbed a 3-0 win on Feb. 9.
Wolfsburg ensured the side suffered its second successive 3-0 loss at home thanks to greater efficiency and two goals from Admir Mehmedi.
Also, Freiburg enjoyed a 5-1 rout of relegation-threatened Augsburg to give coach Christian Streich his biggest win since taking over in December 2011.
Fortuna Duesseldorf was hosting last-place Nuremberg later.