February 29, 2020 / 5:07 PM / in a month

Bayern crush Hoffenheim 6-0 after game interrupted by fans' banner

BERLIN (Reuters) - Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich fired in three goals in the opening 15 minutes en route to a 6-0 demolition of hosts Hoffenheim on Saturday in a game interrupted over an offensive banner unfurled by visiting fans.

Soccer Football - Bundesliga - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich - PreZero Arena, Sinsheim, Germany - February 29, 2020 Bayern Munich's Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring their fifth goal with teammates REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Bayern moved four points clear at the top of the table but the match was at risk of being cut short when the Munich club’s fans displayed the banner insulting Hoffenheim investor Dietmar Hopp in the 79th minute.

The referee ordered the teams into the tunnel and some Bayern players as well as the entire club leadership walked to the stands and urged fans to take it down immediately.

After a 20-minute interruption both teams came back onto the pitch and ran down the clock without playing competitively, ending the game with an ovation for Hopp and with Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge by the billionaire’s side in a show of solidarity.

Hopp has been a lightning rod for some German fans, who oppose the way he used his wealth to help Hoffenheim climb through the lower leagues to the Bundesliga with consecutive promotions more than a decade ago.

A similar insulting banner led to a Borussia Dortmund fans’ ban in Hoffenheim for two seasons and a 50,000 euro fine earlier this month.

“I am deeply ashamed for the behaviour of these people. That is inexcusable. It is the ugly face of football,” Rummenigge told reporters.

“I have apologised to Dietmar Hopp. We have filmed everything and these people will be held accountable. The way these people behaved today they have absolutely no place in a football stadium.”

“It was a big sign the way the players did it in the end. They had discussed it with the referee. There is a process provided by the football association and I think it is good.”

Up until that point the game had gone smoothly for the champions, who were without injured top scorer Robert Lewandowski.

His absence was not felt when Serge Gnabry volleyed them ahead in the second minute. Joshua Kimmich doubled the advantage five minutes later and Joshua Zirkzee made it 3-0 with a clever turn and shot.

Philippe Coutinho scored either side of the break and Leon Goretzka completed the rout in the 62nd but Hoffenheim had thrown in the towel long before the game ended on a sour note following the interruption.

Bayern are on 52 points, four ahead of RB Leipzig, who host Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Borussia Dortmund are third on goal difference following their nervous 1-0 victory over Freiburg.

Borussia Moenchengladbach captain Lars Stindl scored twice in their 3-2 away win at Augsburg to stay fourth on 46 as misfiring Schalke 04 slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Cologne to lose further touch with the top spots.

David Wagner’s team, in sixth place on 36, have now scored just one goal in their last six league games and conceded eight in the last two.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond and Tony Lawrence

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