Record-chasing Robert Lewandowski scored a first-half hat-trick as 10-man Bayern Munich restored their four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a 4-0 win over Stuttgart.
Bayern only started playing well on Saturday after Canadian youngster Alphonso Davies was sent off for a bad tackle on Stuttgart’s Wataru Endo in the 12th minute.
Lewandowski’s magnificent treble then saw the defending champions record the victory that keeps second-placed Leipzig at bay before the teams meet on April 4.
Lewandowski’s 33rd, 34th and 35th goals of the season leave him now needing just five more from the remaining eight matches to equal Bayern and West Germany great Gerd Muller’s Bundesliga record of 40 goals from the 1971-72 season.
Lewandowski’s goals on Saturday did move him past Klaus Fischer to second in the list of all-time top Bundesliga scorers, behind Muller.
“I’m thinking from game to game, and not of how many goals I must score to break this record,” said Lewandowski.
“It makes me very proud, of course,” added the striker who now has 271 goals from 346 games for Bayern and Borussia Dortmund.
Only Muller, who scored 365 in 427 games for Bayern between 1965-79, has more.
“I’m happy with how the team played in the first half. The red card woke us up,” Lewandowski said.
Davies was initially shown a yellow card for landing with his studs on Endo’s ankle, but a VAR check upgraded in to a red.
The sending off only seemed to rouse his teammates.
Serge Gnabry crossed for Lewandowski to open his account in the 18th minute, four minutes before Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane played their way through the Stuttgart defence for Gnabry to get Bayern’s second.
Muller set up Lewandowski’s second a minute later, and the Poland star completed his hat-trick in the 39th after being set up by Sane.
Stuttgart’s Sasa Kalajdzic, who had scored in each of his last seven appearances, missed some good chances in the second half for the visitors.