AUGSBURG: Bayern Munich were crowned Bundesliga champions for the sixth consecutive season on Saturday as James Rodriguez helped turn the game in their 4-1 comeback victory at Augsburg.
The result means Bayern are champions for the 28th time in their history, and it was the sixth year in a row they have won the Bundesliga since their treble-winning season in 2013.
Augsburg took a shock lead through an own goal by Niklas Suele, but the Bavarians roared back as Corentin Tolisso, James — who then assisted Arjen Robben — and Sandro Wagner all scored.
The result leaves Bayern 20 points clear with five league games left and underlined their absolute dominance of the Bundesliga.
“It’s always good (to win a title) — we knew it was going to happen, but we still had to confirm it,” said Robben, who has now won the Bundesliga title seven times since joining Bayern in 2009. “Nothing is given away in the Bundesliga.”
Bayern were five points adrift when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as head coach last September, but 72-year-old Jupp Heynckes who replaced him credited the players with turning Bayern’s fortunes around.
“The coach is responsible for the big picture, but first and foremost the players are the protagonists, they have done an outstanding job,” said Heynckes.
With one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Sevilla, in which Bayern hold a slender 2-1 lead, Heynckes gambled by resting his stars.
Top scorer Robert Lewandowski, plus Thomas Mueller, Thiago Alcantara, Mats Hummels and Javi Martinez all started on the bench in Augsburg.
Sevilla would have been encouraged by the comedy of errors in Bayern’s defence that led to Augsburg’s opening goal.
Jerome Boateng lingered over a back pass and Colombian forward Sergio Cordova robbed him of possession, sending Boateng tumbling to the turf.
Cordova’s shot was blocked by Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, but the ball ricocheted up into Suele’s face and into Bayern’s goal to stun the visitors on 18 minutes.
However Munich hit back to lead 2-1 by half-time. Joshua Kimmich picked out the unmarked Tolisso to head them level on 32 minutes and Bayern then laid on a top-class goal to take the lead at the WWK Arena.
Kimmich was again involved, firing a pass across goal after combining with Robben for Juan Bernat, who backheeled the ball which James fired home seven minutes before the break.
The Colombian then ensured the title was heading to Munich, hooking the ball back into play at the far post for Robben to drill his shot inside the near post on 62 minutes.
Ribery celebrated his 35th birthday with a cameo appearance for the final eight minutes before Wagner headed in Bayern’s fourth.
The Bavarian giants will formally lift the Bundesliga shield after the final matches on May 12.
Elsewhere, Hamburg climbed off the bottom of the table as Aaron Hunt curled in an 85th-minute winner from outside the area in a shock 3-2 home win against second-placed Schalke.
It was Hamburg’s first win in 16 games dating back to last November.
Their shock win meant Cologne are bottom again having earlier been held to a 1-1 draw at home by Mainz.
An early goal by Cologne’s Germany defender Jonas Hector was cancelled out as Pablo De Blasis headed an equaliser for Mainz five minutes into the second half.
With five games left, Hamburg are five points behind Mainz, who are 16th, the position which carries a relegation play-off berth against the third-best team in the second tier at the end of the season.
Wolfsburg won 2-0 at Freiburg in a match between two sides just above the bottom three and fighting to stay up.
Wolves striker Daniel Didavi held off his marker and fired past despairing Freiburg goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow with two minutes gone, then added a second with seven minutes remaining.
Thorgan Hazard, the younger brother of Chelsea’s Eden, came off the bench to score twice as Borussia Moenchengladbach climbed to eighth with a 2-1 win at home to Hertha Berlin.
Salomon Kalou gave Hertha an early lead, but Hazard equalised on 75 minutes, then net a late penalty.