BERLIN — It’s hard to believe there was a time this season when Bayern Munich didn’t look like a champion side.
Less than two months into a lackluster start, Bayern officials pulled the trigger on manager Carlo Ancelotti and persuaded Jupp Heynckes to un-retire for a fourth stint in charge.
Bayern started winning again, and didn’t stop. A relentless, almost inevitable march to the title ended on Saturday when Bayern underlined its dominance of the Bundesliga with a record-extending sixth successive championship.
Augsburg was beaten 4-1 away for Bayern to seal its record 28th German championship, including the solitary pre-Bundesliga title in 1932.
Bayern did it with five rounds to spare, allowing the team to focus on the Champions League and German Cup for the rest of the season.
After reveling with a cardboard Bundesliga trophy, the players danced in a conga line on Augsburg’s field. But there were none of the customary beer showers. Celebrations were relatively muted as the side looked to the remaining targets.
“There’ll be a lot of time to celebrate,” Franck Ribery said on his 35th birthday.
The French winger, who went on as a substitute, joined former Bayern players Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mehmet Scholl, and Philipp Lahm on a record eight Bundesliga titles.
Once again it was away from home. The last time Bayern sealed the title in front of its own fans was in 2000 when the club was still playing at Munich’s Olympiastadion.
Corentin Tolisso, James Rodriguez, Arjen Robben and Sandro Wagner scored as the side came from behind to move an unassailable 20 points ahead of Schalke, which was defeated at Hamburger SV later.
“It was clear that we’d be German champions at some stage with the lead that we had, but at the time (assistant) Peter Hermann and I returned it wasn’t foreseeable as we were five points behind and the team wasn’t really functioning properly,” said Heynckes, the oldest coach to win a Bundesliga title at 72. “Everyone delivered great work.”
The coach, who is going back into retirement at the end of the season, also congratulated Ancelotti for his role in the title success.
“He’s not only a great coach but a great person,” Heynckes said.
Augsburg started at pace, closing down any space for the visitors, and the pressure paid off in the 18th minute with an own-goal. Sergio Cordova forced Jerome Boateng to lose possession and Sven Ulreich then saved the Venezuelan forward’s shot before the ball rebounded in off Niklas Suele’s face.
But the home side was unable to maintain its furious pace, and Tolisso was left completely unmarked to head in Joshua Kimmich’s cross for the equalizer after a half-hour.
James put the visitors in front before the break, scoring from close range after Juan Bernat deflected Kimmich’s cross into his path.
Robben all but sealed the title after the hour-mark when he fired inside the right post after James kept the ball in play.
Wagner, playing in place of the rested Robert Lewandowski, rounded off the scoring late.
Aaron Hunt scored a brilliant late goal for Hamburger SV to rekindle its hope of avoiding relegation with a 3-2 win over second-place Schalke.
Hunt let fly from around 25 meters inside the top right corner to lift Hamburg off the bottom and end Schalke’s six-game winning run.
Hamburg suffered an early setback when Naldo appeared to score with his hand, but goals from Filip Kostic and Lewis Holby put the home side ahead before Guido Burgstaller’s equalizer for Schalke.
Hunt’s late strike lifted Hamburg above Cologne and five points behind Mainz in the relegation playoff place
BLOW FOR COLOGNE
Cologne’s chances of avoiding the drop took a blow after relegation rival Mainz came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw in their decisive clash.
Cologne captain Jonas Hector headed his side into an early lead, but Pablo De Blasis equalized to keep Mainz six points clear of the home side.
Wolfsburg struck a blow for its survival with a 2-0 win at Freiburg, and Borussia Moenchengladbach came from behind to beat visiting Hertha Berlin 2-1.