BERLIN – Neither leaders Borussia Dortmund nor champions Bayern Munich got through their three last matches in eight days unscathed but Munich may feel a bit more confident ahead of the next tasks.
Dortmund’s Bundesliga lead has been trimmed to seven to five points a week after they could have gone nine points clear, and their dream of a domestic double is also over.
The young team squandered a lead in their 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, were twice up in extra time before losing on penalties in the cup against Werder Bremen, and then even squandered a 3-0 lead in the last 15 minutes of their 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim.
Bayern meanwhile crashed 3-1 at Bayer Leverkusen before coming from behind to win 3-2 in extra time in the cup at Hertha Berlin and defeating Schalke 3-1.
Young Munich forward Serge Gnabry, who scored twice against Hertha and once on Saturday, was more than happy in what he named "a superb week" for himself and the club.
"It was crucial to advance in the cup and to take three points today, it boosts our confidence," he said.
"We knew what was at stake because we played later and knew Dortmund’s result. We must win every match, regardless of Dortmund’s results, to keep our chances alive. So we do our best and try to catch up with them, match after match."
Striker Robert Lewandowski, who scored once and was also involved in the other two against Schalke, said "Dortmund know they have pressure from us."
Defender Joshua Kimmich has also not given up the dream of a record-extending seventh straight title, with the two also meeting in Munich later in the season.
"Of course I hope that Dortmund become nervous and have some jitters," Kimmich told ZDF television. "Seven points are something completely different than five points, from a psychological point of view."
Coach Niko Kovac said Bayern have improved in many aspects through the season but there were also some defensive weaknesses which could have allowed Schalke to score more goals.
Bayern will need to be more robust at the back when they face a difficult first Champions League last 16 date at Liverpool on February 19, but so must Dortmund who have an as difficult task on Wednesday at Tottenham.
"We were a little bit naïve in our defending for the three goals, and unfortunately lost the decisive battles," Dortmund assistant coach Manfred Stefes said after the extraordinary Hoffenheim meltdown.
Dortmund were without injured captain Marco Reus and ill coach Lucien Favre who was however in contact via mobile phone with his assistants throughout the match.
"We have to learn from this, we can not afford this to happen again," defender Julian Weigl said.
Dortmund’s other assistant coach, Edin Terzic, meanwhile voiced some understanding for the lapses and said the team would learn from it.
"It’s frustrating to throw away a lead three times in seven days. However, we have a very young team who are allowed to make mistakes. We do want to tackle this though in order to become stronger," Terzic said.