Borussia Dortmund reignited their fading title hopes with a statement victory over fellow challengers RB Leipzig on Saturday which moved them within five points of leaders Bayern Munich.
Jadon Sancho opened the scoring before a double from Erling Haaland sealed the win, with Alexander Sorloth netting a late consolation for the hosts as they suffered only their second league defeat of the season.
Both sides went into the game in good form, with Leipzig unbeaten since the end of October. Die Roten Bull knew a win at the Red Bull Arena would see them leapfrog leaders Bayern Munich at the summit, after the Bavarian giants let a two goal lead slip against Borussia Monchengladbach to suffer a 3-2 defeat.
It would be a stern test against a much improved Dortmund however, with Die Borrussen having won two of their three Bundesliga games under interim manager Edin Terzic since he took over in December.
Julian Nagelsmann made one change to the team which defeated Stuttgart 1-0 last Saturday, with Yussuf Poulsen coming in for Kevin Kampl. Opposition boss Terzic opted to name the same starting eleven who helped Dortmund to overcome Wolfsburg 2-0 last weekend.
Dortmund were dealt an early blow in the game as Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel was forced to limp off and be replaced by Emre Can. The club later confirmed that Witsel had suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon and is set to be ruled out of action for a number of months.
In a first half where chances were at a premium, Leipzig’s Dani Olmo came closest to opening the scoring. He capitalised on a poor clearance from Dortmund left back Guerriero, taking the ball down well on his chest on the edge of the area, before volleying a shot which dipped just over the top of the crossbar.
After a toothless first period, where Dortmund failed to register a single shot on target in a half for the first time in nearly 14 months, they came out for the second half with a renewed vigour and were nearly rewarded with an early breakthrough.
Just three minutes after the restart, Jadon Sancho slipped Marcos Reus in on the left hand side of the penalty area, but the Dortmund captain was denied by Gulasci at his near post. From the resulting corner, Emre Can rose highest to meet Sancho’s inviting delivery, but the German midfielder’s thumping header skimmed the crossbar.
They took a deserved lead on fifty five minutes after a lightening quick move. Haaland burst down the right and squared to Reus, who cleverly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Sancho and the winger did the rest, coolly slotting past Gulasci at his near post to put Dortmund ahead.
It was the Englishman’s second goal in as many games, after previously going seventeen games without one. Dortmund continued to find their strive and almost had a second when Sancho fed Haaland who had made a darting run into the penalty area, but the Norwegian striker’s thunderous effort cannoned off the crossbar after a touch from Gulasci.
At the other end Leipzig came closest to equalising when Dani Olmo’s low drive rattled the far post. The Spaniard received the ball on the half turn and wriggled away from Guerriero before shooting, with his angled drive bouncing off the upright and away from goal.
Dortmund got the all important second goal with just twenty minutes of the contest remain after some lovely build up play, which was started and finished by Haaland. He danced past a number of players before feeding Sancho on the left. He then neatly exchanged passes with Guerriero before putting in an enticing delivery which Haaland duly met, towering above Halstenberg to give Dortmund a deserved two goal cushion.
Haaland wrapped up the win in the 83rd minute when he latched onto Reus’ perfectly weighted through ball before rounding Gulasci and tapping into an empty net for his 12th Bundesliga goal of the season.
Leipzig found time to pull one back when substitute Alexander Sorloth reacted quickest to fire home at the second attempt after Burki had parried his initial header back into the striker’s path. It proved to be too little too late however, as Dortmund held on for a crucial win which moves them to within three points of the home side.
Speaking to ESPN after the game, Dortmund midfielder Emre Can said:
“Everyone knows that today this was an extremely important game for us. It was a game that would tell us which way our season will be going. It was decisive to win it. The last few weeks have not been easy. Now we want to launch our attack.”
Meanwhile Leipzig boss Nagelsmann told the media:
“We’ve lost after nine unbeaten. It’s frustrating because it was against a direct rival. However looking at their chances, it was a deserved victory for Dortmund.
“It was an interesting game, with both teams very good tactically. We controlled the first half and Dortmund the second.
In the second half, we lost our structure and BVB took advantage when we lost possession.”
Both teams are back in Bundesliga action next weekend as Dortmund host Mainz in their next fixture on Saturday afternoon whilst Leipzig are away to Wolfsburg at the same time.