Alassane Plea scored a quickfire hat-trick for high-flying Borussia Moenchengladbach in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Werder Bremen to roar to the top of the Bundesliga scoring charts.
The thumping victory keeps Gladbach second in the table, a point behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, who host defending champions Bayern Munich in a mouth-watering clash at 1730 GMT.
Bayern sit third in the table, four points behind Dortmund and now three behind Gladbach.
Plea ran riot in Bremen, taking just 13 minutes to claim his hat-trick to leave him on eight goals in 11 games.
Hosts Bremen suffered their third straight league defeat to drop further back in the title race to sit seventh.
“We are just doing very well at the moment and will try to keep this run going for as long as possible,” said Gladbach coach Dieter Hecking.
“We can enjoy looking at the league table during the international break, then get ready for our next game.”
Plea, a 23-million-euro ($26 million) signing from French side Nice, cut inside Bremen striker Martin Harnik and playmaker Davy Klaassen and curled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner on 39 minutes for the opening goal.
His second followed when he fired through the legs of Bremen midfielder Maximilian Eggestein and goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka three minutes into the second half.
Plea wrapped up his hat-trick just four minutes later when left-back Oscar Wendt picked him out in the area and he fired home from close range.
Ex-Dortmund midfielder Nuri Sahin pulled a goal back for Bremen, but the hosts’ defensive frailties again saw them tumble to defeat after a 6-2 thumping at home to Bayer Leverkusen and the 2-1 loss at Mainz.
“Individual mistakes decided the game,” admitted Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt.
– Hertha crash again –
Ten-man Hertha Berlin, who like Bremen have seen their title aspirations fall apart, crashed to a 4-1 defeat at struggling Fortuna Duesseldorf after winger Maximilian Mittelstaedt was sent off for two yellow cards in the first half.
Following Mittelstaedt’s dismissal, Fortuna profited with second-half goals by Japan striker Takashi Usami, forward Rouwen Hennings and midfielder Benito Raman, who netted twice, as Duesseldorf picked up their first league win since mid-September after six straight defeats.
However, they remain second from bottom after VfB Stuttgart also claimed victory as defender Timo Baumgartl and midfielder Erik Thommy scored in a 2-0 win at Nuremberg.
English teenager Reiss Nelson scored an 84th-minute winner as Hoffenheim built on their 2-2 draw at Lyon in the Champions League in midweek with a 2-1 win at home to Augsburg.
Andrej Kramaric’s opening goal for Hoffenheim was cancelled out by Augsburg’s Iceland striker Alfred Finnbogason midway through the second half.
Nelson, on loan from Arsenal, settled the matter with his sixth goal in seven league games just two minutes after coming on.
He fired into an empty net after Adam Szalai’s strike was saved.
Mainz are up to ninth after they backed up last weekend’s win over Bremen with a 3-1 victory at Freiburg as Ivory Coast forward Jean-Philippe Gbamin, French striker Jean-Philippe Mateta and Austria’s Karim Onisiwo scored.