Bayern Munich took out their Champions League frustrations on Mainz as James Rodriguez claimed his first Bundesliga hat-trick on Sunday in a 6-0 romp to fire the Bavarians back to the top of the table.
After Wednesday’s Champions League exit, following a 3-1 home defeat by Liverpool in the last 16, Mainz bore the brunt of the backlash at Munich’s Allianz Arena.
“We showed the disappointment of the Liverpool defeat is behind us, it was important to react,” said Bayern coach Niko Kovac.
Rodriguez, on loan until the end of the season from Real Madrid, came off to a standing ovation with 20 minutes left after arguably his best display in the famous red shirt.
“I am pleased for him, he deserved the applause,” added Kovac, who declined to comment on whether Rodriguez’s loan deal will be extended.
Canadian wunderkind Alphonso Davies, 18, scored his first Bayern goal on only his fifth appearance after coming off the bench.
The thumping win saw Bayern reclaim top spot in the Bundesliga from Borussia Dortmund, who briefly usurped them with a nervy 3-2 win at Hertha Berlin on Saturday, with eight games left.
– Race to the finish –
“We had planned a lot because of what happened on Wednesday, our focus is now on the league,” said Thomas Mueller.
Dortmund and Bayern are level on 60 points, but the Bavarians hold a superior goal difference of seven.
“We wanted to fight back after Dortmund’s victory. The last three games are a marker,” Mueller added, with Bayern having smashed in 17 goals in winning their last three league games.
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, the Bundesliga’s top scorer, claimed his 18th league goal this season, tapping in a David Alaba cross on three minutes.
Leon Goretzka laid on the second goal, chesting down into Rodriguez’s path and the Colombian opened his account on 33 minutes.
French winger Kingsley Coman gave Mainz goalkeeper Florian Mueller no chance with his shot six minutes before the break to make it 3-0 at half-time.
Rodriguez wrapped up his hat-trick with two goals in four breathtaking minutes, hitting the top corner past Mueller’s reach on 51 minutes, then chipping the despairing Mainz goalkeeper moments later.
Just 11 minutes after coming on, Davies claimed his first Bundesliga goal, netting the rebound from a saved Lewandowski shot.
Bayern have now won 13 of their last 14 league matches.
– Frankfurt march on –
Earlier, fifth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt, the only Bundesliga club left in European football, maintained their challenge for a Champions League spot with a 1-0 win at home to bottom side Nuremberg.
A first-half goal by Austrian defender Martin Hinteregger leaves Frankfurt unbeaten in their last 13 games, including nine in the Bundesliga.
Frankfurt face Benfica over two legs in the Europa League quarter-finals after beating Inter Milan 1-0 last Thursday, and a superb pass from in-form striker Luka Jovic, on loan from the Portuguese side, led to Hinteregger’s winner.
Earlier, Werder Bremen forwards Max Kruse and Milot Rashica combined in a shock 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen.
Between them, centre-forward Kruse and winger Rashica have netted six goals and provided three assists in four league games and the duo did the damage against Leverkusen.
Kruse gave his mid-table side the lead on 13 minutes and helped double the lead at the BayArena when he set up Rashica, who grabbed his third goal in two games after a brace in last week’s 4-2 rout of Schalke.
Leverkusen’s Jamaican winger Leon Bailey blasted home a free-kick on 75 minutes, but with the hosts chasing an equaliser, Bremen counter-attacked and Kruse cut in to drill home his second in the 95th minute.
The result lifts Bremen to eighth and leaves Leverkusen sixth, four points behind Frankfurt.