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Energie Cottbus 1 Bayern 3

Ribery inspires merited win as FCB go joint top

Bayern handed caretaker boss Jupp Heynckes the perfect 64th birthday present with a fully merited victory away to Cottbus, a win which more than revives the champions’ hopes of defending their Bundesliga title on a dramatic day in the German top flight.

The 22,528 sell-out crowd at the Stadium of Friendship saw Jose Sosa hand Bayern a deserved lead midway through the first half, but the champions failed to add a second and were punished when Ivica Iliev levelled against the run of play before half-time.

The introduction of Franck Ribery ten minutes after the restart imbued the visitors with new impetus and urgency, Martin Demichelis and Lukas Podolski netting within four minutes after the hour to set the champions comfortably on the way to victory. There was even time for the outstanding Ribery to earn but miss a penalty before the end, although that was a minor blemish on an otherwise positive afternoon for the Bavarians.

The win could prove utterly crucial in the closest-ever title race in Bundesliga history, as Bayern go level at the top with Wolfsburg on 60 points from 31 games, but with a slightly inferior goal difference of +25 to the leaders' +27. The Wolves lost 4-1 in Stuttgart, themselves up to fourth and just two points off the lead, while Hertha Berlin in third beat Bochum 2-0 and trail the top two by a single point.