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Leverkusen open up 5-point lead with dominant win over Bayern Munich

Leon Kuegeler / Getty Images Sport / Getty

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LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Alex Grimaldo scored as Bayer Leverkusen beat Bayern Munich 3-0 on Saturday to open up a five-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.

It’s carnival season in the Rhineland, and Leverkusen fans, many of them in costume, had plenty to celebrate as Xabi Alonso’s team proved its title credentials.

It was Leverkusen’s 31st game this season without a loss in all competitions, a remarkable campaign for a team which was in the relegation zone when Alonso took charge in Oct. 2022.

After a kickoff delayed by fan protests, it was a Bayern player who scored the first goal — but he wasn’t playing for Bayern.

Right back Josip Stanišić, sent out on loan to Leverkusen at the start of the season, popped up at the far post to score off Robert Andrich’s low cross in the 18th minute after Bayern seemed to be taken by surprise by Leverkusen’s quick throw-in routine.

Stanišić put his hands up in apology and barely celebrated his first Bundesliga goal in nearly two years, though his teammates certainly did.

Leverkusen made it 2-0 with an incisive counter early in the second half, Grimaldo sprinting down the left flank and playing a one-two with Nathan Tella before lofting a shot over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Jeremie Frimpong added a third in stoppage time into the empty net after Neuer had gone up for a Bayern corner.

The game was a comprehensive tactical victory for Alonso over Thomas Tuchel and Bayern, which couldn’t break through Leverkusen’s defense. Harry Kane has scored 24 goals in 20 Bundesliga games since joining Bayern but had few chances to score as Leverkusen squeezed him out of the game.

Alonso switched to a back four from his usual three-at-the-back formation and benched Frimpong to deploy Stanišić on the right of defense for the first time this season. Tuchel started new signing Sacha Boey, normally a right back, on the left side and he was out of position for Stanišić's opening goal.

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