Bayern crush Hertha with second-half blitz

BERLIN: Champions Bayern Munich scored four times in 24 minutes in the second half to crush hosts Hertha Berlin 4-0 on Sunday and move into second place as the Bundesliga resumed after the winter break.

The Bavarians held back in the first half but were unstoppable after the break, riding roughshod over Hertha to move into second place, four points behind leaders RB Leipzig.

Thomas Mueller stabbed in from close range on the hour for his third goal of the season, with Bayern upping the tempo after the break following a largely lacklustre first half.

Robert Lewandowski, back following groin surgery in December, bagged his 20th league goal of this season when the Polish striker sent keeper Rune Jarstein the wrong way to score with a 73rd-minute penalty.

He joined RB Leipzig's Timo Werner at the top of the league scorers' list, the first time in Bundesliga history that two players had 20 goals apiece by the 18th matchday.

Three minutes later Thiago Alcantara made it 3-0 with a superb strike and Ivan Perisic headed in at the far post in the 84th from a fine Mueller cross to complete their win and lift Bayern onto 36 points.

"We tired them out and then the spaces became bigger in the second half," said Mueller. "We were too patient in the first half and were not really dangerous."

Mueller's assist for Bayern's fourth goal was his 12th on the 18th matchday, the fastest any player has reached this number since records started in the 2004/05 season.

Victory also improved interim manager Hansi Flick's chances of staying on with his future at the club still unclear after he took over from Nico Kovac back in November.

In the other game on Sunday Bayer Leverkusen moved up to 31 points in sixth with a 4-1 victory over strugglers Paderborn and with two goals from Kevin Volland.

Leipzig are top on 40 after Saturday's 3-1 win over Union Berlin. Borussia Moenchengladbach dropped to third on 35 following Friday's 2-0 loss to Schalke 04.