Mario Gomez scored a hat trick to lead Bayern Munich to a 5-3 win at Stuttgart in the Bundesliga on Sunday in the last round before the winter break.
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Gomez opened the scoring against his former club in the 31st minute when he was played through by Thomas Mueller’s perfectly timed pass.
The striker returned the favor five minutes later to allow Mueller slide between two defenders to poke the ball past goalkeeper Sven Ulreich from close range.
Franck Ribery made it three before halftime, feigned twice to make his way unopposed into a shooting position before unleashing a powerful effort from 40 meters (yards) past Ulreich.
Cacau missed the chance to score for Stuttgart after the break, heading a corner over the bar. He made amends three minutes later when he skipped past a couple of challenges in midfield before passing to Pavel Pogrebnyak, whose cross was knocked past goalkeeper Joerg Butt by Martin Harnik.
Any thoughts of a revival were dashed moments later, however, when Ulreich spilled a harmless shot from Ribery to present Gomez with his second goal in the 52nd minute.
He completed his hat trick two minutes later. Five Stuttgart players were unable to clear the ball, and Gomez pounced after Ulreich had saved from Mueller.
"It was nothing special," the striker told Sky after the game.
Harnik hit his second in the 64th minute after a defense-splitting through ball from Cacau, and Christian Gentner’s free kick completed the scoring with 20 minutes remaining.
Stuttgart had appeals for a penalty turned down after Pogrebnyak looked to be brought down by Anatoliy Tymoshchuck in the area.
Pogrebnyak had the chance to make it a tense finale after a mistake from Bayern defender Philipp Lahm, but the Russian dragged his shot wide.
Bayern, the defending champion, climbs to fifth place on 29 points, 14 behind leader Borussia Dortmund. Stuttgart, with new coach Bruno Labbadia in charge, remains second from bottom, five points from safety with 12.
"It’s not good to concede three goals," Ribery said. "We need to be more compact, but the three points are what’s important."
Earlier, substitute Patrick Helmes equalized for Bayer Leverkusen in a 2-2 draw against visiting Freiburg.
Leverkusen is level with Mainz on 33 points, 10 behind Dortmund, but it remains third on goal difference. Freiburg drops to sixth place with 28.
Helmes scored in the 74th minute, just three minutes after he had an effort ruled offside, and four after was brought on by coach Jupp Heynckes.
In heavy snowfall, Leverkusen took an early lead when Arturo Vidal converted a penalty in the 15th minute after Julian Schuster had needlessly fouled Tranquillo Barnetta.
Vidal sent Oliver Baumann the wrong way to send his shot in the bottom right corner.
Jan Rosenthal equalized shortly afterward when he controlled a long cross from Stefan Reisinger with his chest before shooting inside the far post past goalkeeper Rene Adler.
The second half was delayed as ground staff cleared the snow.
Freiburg took the lead with 25 minutes remaining when Reisinger connected with a cross from Maximilian Nicu from the right.
Heynckes responded by bringing on two strikers, German international striker Stefan Kiessling – making his first Bundesliga appearance after three months out with a leg injury – and then Helmes for Vidal.
Helmes’ first effort was ruled offside, but he scored when Kiessling’s cross took a kind deflection to leave him one on one with the goalkeeper.
Kiessling missed a great chance to hit the winner for Leverkusen late in the game, scuffing his shot in front of goal.