Luminaries of the footballing world and beyond were in attendance at the Allianz Arena to pay their respects to Franz Beckenbauer on Friday. - © Alexandra Beier
Luminaries of the footballing world and beyond were in attendance at the Allianz Arena to pay their respects to Franz Beckenbauer on Friday. - © Alexandra Beier

Beckenbauer remembered as Leverkusen pull clear on a Matchday 18 that produced plenty of talking points


Franz Beckenbauer and Kay Bernstein were fondly remembered in Bavaria, Berlin and beyond, while Bayer Leverkusen pulled away from Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table. looks at Matchday 18's top five talking points…

1) Der Kaiser remembered

Bayern held a memorial service for the late, great Franz Beckenbauer on Friday evening, with figures from the sporting world and beyond invited to the Allianz Arena to pay their respects to 'Der Kaiser', who passed away on 7 January at the age of 78.

A legend for club and country, Beckenbauer won three consecutive European Cups with Bayern as well as the World Cup with West Germany in the 1970s, and was the first defender ever to win the Ballon d'Or. He later lifted the World Cup as manager, leading the Germans to glory at Italia '90. 

Watch: Bayern bid farewell to Beckenbauer

On a sombre weekend across the top two divisions in German football, Hertha Berlin also paid their respects to club president Kay Bernstein, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 43 on 16 January.

2) Leverkusen look the real deal

Back on the field of play, Bayer Leverkusen cemented their grip on top spot in the Bundesliga with a 3-2 win over RB Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena, leaving it late to secure all three points for the second week running.

It was the second consecutive injury-time winner for Bayer - Exequiel Palacios the hero against Augsburg last Saturday; Piero Hincapié this time against Leipzig.

Watch: Highlights of Leverkusen's win over Leipzig

There was some concern for Xabi Alonso's league leaders lost starters Victor Boniface, Edmond Tapsoba and Odilon Kossounou to the Africa Cup of Nations, the former subsequently ruled out for six weeks with injury, but Patrik Schick, Hincapié and Josip Stanišić have slotted in well, and Die Werkself are now seven points clear…

3) None the Weiser

… and that's because Bayern then lost to Werder Bremen on Sunday, the relegation-threatened Grün-Weißen coming away from the Allianz with a 1-0 win - their first Bundesliga victory over the champions in 29 attempts.

To add salt to the wound, the match-winner was Mitchell Weiser, who fired high beyond Manuel Neuer just inside the hour. A former Bayern and Leverkusen player, he was understandably delighted with the outcome.

Watch: Highlights of Bremen's shock win at Bayern

I don't think many of us have won here - I was one of those who hasn't!" he told at full-time. "It was a very difficult and important game today, so I'm please we showed that." 

Bayern will look to bounce back quickly in their rescheduled game with Union Berlin on Wednesday.

4) Dortmund turning a corner

Borussia Dortmund might have expected to be the side giving Bayern the biggest headache this season after running them so close last term, but they dropped nine of a possible 12 points in a stuttering end to the Hinrunde.

But the winds of change are now sweeping through the Signal Iduna Park. Jadon Sancho has made a headline-grabbing return from Manchester United, but Ian Maatsen has also hit the ground running since his own loan arrival from Chelsea. Off the field, Nuri Şahin and Sven Bender are back at the club in managerial roles.

Watch: Highlights of Dortmund win in Cologne

And the early running looks good: after beating Darmstadt 3-0 last weekend, BVB ran out 4-0 winners in Cologne. Seven goals scored, none conceded, and all six points picked up away from home. Sancho has had a direct goal-involvements in both games, and only started the latter…

5) Stefan Lainer returns

Last, but by no means least, is the fact that Stefan Lainer returned to play his first Bundesliga game since overcoming cancer on Sunday night. Borussia Mönchengladbach may have lost 2-1 to Augsburg, but the real victory was Lainer's.

Lainer was diagnosed with lymph node cancer in July, and missed the first half of the season as a result. An early diagnosis had improved Lainer's chances of recovery, but the journey from receiving that news to being back on a Bundesliga field was still a significant one indeed.

A happy sight indeed: Stefan Lainer returning to action with Borussia Mönchengladbach. - IMAGO/Norbert Jansen / fohlenfoto

Last year Sébastien Haller, Timo Baumgartl, Marco Richter and Jean-Paul Boetius were all diagnosed with testicular cancer, before going on to make complete recoveries.