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Amid celebrations and protests, Bayern takes 4-point lead

BERLIN (AP) — First came the celebrations, then the protests. Amid it all, Bayern Munich labored to a 2-0 win over Bavarian rival Augsburg to stretch its Bundesliga lead to four points on Sunday. There appeared more action off the field than on it. Bayern fans celebrated the team’s 120th birthday before the game, then criticized club management and the German soccer federation with banners on various issues during the match.

The supporters are unhappy over Bayern accepting sponsorship money from 2022 World Cup host Qatar, the club's criticism of fan protests the weekend before, the federation’s ban on fireworks, unfair ticket prices and more.

Referee Bibiana Steinhaus took charge of the game on International Women’s Day. The 40-year-old Steinhaus is the league’s first, and so far only, female referee. Her first Bundesliga game as referee was in 2017.

Thomas Müller missed Bayern’s biggest and only chance of the first half when he mis-hit Gnabry’s cross to send the ball into the ground and just over the bar from a promising position. Bayern had only two shots, its lowest first-half tally in the league since 2014.

Tenacious Augsburg defending left the home side with few clear scoring chances. Instead of intricate passing, old-fashioned direct football won the day as Müller scored in the 53rd off a long pass over the top from Jerome Boateng.

Bayern's Manuel Neuer made a key save and Augsburg's Florian Niederlechner had a late equalizer ruled out for offside before Leon Goretzka made sure of the points in injury time. “It's not the level that we've played at in the last few weeks and that we want to play at,” Müller said.

He added that “we need to take a deep breath” before a run of three games in nine days from March 14, including the second leg of Bayern's last-16 Champions League tie with Chelsea. Bayern won the first leg 3-0.

Despite the lackluster performance, Bayern stretched its unbeaten run to 15 games across all competitions, racking up 14 wins, and it capitalized on Leipzig’s draw in Wolfsburg to increase its lead. Leipzig dropped third on Saturday, when Borussia Dortmund moved second with a 2-1 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Bayern wore special jerseys to mark 120 years of the club’s existence, with the burgundy and white top based on those worn by the team that won its first German championship in 1932. Bayern had to wait till 1969 before winning another but made up for lost time by winning 29 so far. The team is now going for a record-extending eighth straight title.

Mainz drew 1-1 with visiting Fortuna Düsseldorf, a result that fails to ease either side's relegation worries. Düsseldorf remains in the relegation playoff place, while Mainz stayed four points clear of Düsseldorf.

James Ellingworth contributed to this story.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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