RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann all but conceded the Bundesliga title on Saturday after his side were beaten 1-0 by league leaders Bayern Munich thanks to a first-half goal from Leon Goretzka.
Goretzka smashed the ball into the top corner shortly before the break as Bayern opened up a seven-point lead at the top of the table over second-place Leipzig with just seven games to go.
“For us, it’s about finishing second in the table. We’re playing a good season and we want to keep going, even if our first chance of a title is gone,” Nagelsmann told Sky.
Leipzig will now need a near miracle if they are to stop Bayern winning a 30th Bundesliga title in May, yet match-winner Goretzka remained cautious.
“There are still 21 points on offer this season, so this was a big step towards the title, but not a decisive one,” he said.
Playing without their injured star striker Robert Lewandowski, Bayern spent much of the game on the back foot as Leipzig dominated possession.
Kick-off was delayed by several minutes after Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer found a hole in his goal net, but the Munich defence remained watertight in the first half.
Goretzka blasted in the opener shortly before half-time, hitting a Thomas Mueller cut-back first time to pick up his fifth league goal of the season.
Leipzig came out fighting after the break, yet they failed to take their chances as Christopher Nkunku, Marcel Sabitzer and Dani Olmo all flashed shots just wide of the post.
Dortmund face ‘catastrophe’
Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels said his club are facing a “catastrophe” after a 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt left their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread.
A late winner from Portuguese striker Andre Silva means Dortmund are seven points adrift of Frankfurt and the Champions League qualification places.
“Realistically, it’s going to be very difficult to finish in the top four, even if we get six or seven more wins,” Hummels told Sky after his side slumped to a 10th defeat of the season.
He said that missing the top four would be disastrous for Dortmund, who face a fight to hold on to coveted key players such as Erling Braut Haaland in the next transfer window.
“Not qualifying for the Champions League would obviously be a sporting and financial catastrophe, and we are close to that now,” said Hummels.
Frankfurt took the lead through a freakish own goal on 11 minutes, as Nico Schulz sent a looping header into his own net after a cross from Filip Kostic.
Hummels hooked the ball in at a corner to level the scores on the stroke of half-time, but the visitors restored the lead on the counter-attack in the dying minutes, Silva heading in from close range after another Kostic cross.
Frankfurt are now four points off third-place Wolfsburg, who beat Cologne 1-0 thanks to a second-half goal from Josip Brekalo.
Dortmund are level on points with Bayer Leverkusen, who eased to a 2-1 win over bottom club Schalke in their first game under new coach Hannes Wolf.
Lucas Alario and Patrik Schick struck either side of half-time before Dutch veteran Klaas-Jan Huntelaar grabbed a late consolation goal, scoring for the first time since his surprise return to Schalke in January.
Borussia Moenchengladbach kept their European hopes alive as they came from behind to beat Freiburg 2-1.
Marcus Thuram scored twice in seven minutes in the second half to overturn Roland Sallai’s opener and give a resurgent Gladbach their second successive win.
Two brutal counter-attack goals from Ruben Vargas and Andre Hahn gave Augsburg a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, despite a brilliant late half-volley from Robert Skov.
In the relegation fight, Mainz’s recent revival was halted by a 1-1 draw at home to fellow strugglers Arminia Bielefeld, Andreas Voglsammer cancelling out Daniel Brosinski’s penalty 15 minutes from time.