Borussia Dortmund regained a three point advantage over Bayern Munich as they narrowly beat in-form Bayer Leverkusen at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
Leverkusen were firmly in charge during the opening moments of the game as Dortmund struggled to keep possession of the ball. The Schwarzgelben fans' nerves were calmed on the half hour mark when Dan-Axel Zagadou was in the right place at the right time at a corner kick to tap home from close range.
Die Werkself pegged one back when Kevin Volland expertly beat Roman Bürki at his near post. One minute later Jadon Sancho put BVB back in front, when the Englishman was found in acres of space at the back post and cracked a well-taken volley past Lukas Hradecky.
Dortmund came out in the second half with a more demanding performance, as Mario Gӧtze gave the home side some breathing space with a goal from the edge of the box while Leverkusen made their many set pieces count when Jonathon Tah rose highest from Julian Brandt's free-kick to pull a goal back for the away side. However, Dortmund had done enough to remain ahead and take a valuable three points, returning to winning ways.
Check out 90mins breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
Three points was an absolute must for BVB. Bayern Munich had piled the pressure on the league leaders and had taken advantage of three straight draws from Lucien Favre’s side. Favre had made many changes in his bid to revert their poor form and many questioned whether this Dortmund side could cope with the pressure.
Dortmund were boosted before kick off with the return of Manuel Akanji, as the Swiss defender had not made an appearance since December. After a cagey opening 10 minutes Akanji controlled the Dortmund defence and gave a solid performance calming the back line when Leverkusen rallied for an equaliser.
Julian Weigl also played well in the game after reverting back to his normal role in the middle of the park. The young German had been put back to cover for Akanji and while Weigl impressed in defence, he was much more effective in the midfield against Leverkusen.
Gӧtze also returned to his natural position with Paco Alcacer making a surprise start. The midfielder had been finally put back behind the striker in the position where he plays his best football. As Dortmund grew into the game Gӧtze was at the heart of all their attacking play, causing problems for Leverkusen’s defence throughout the second half. The German also popped up with the goal that ended up winning the game for his side.
The pressure was clear in Dortmund's performance but the Yellow Blacks' changes helped see out the game and regain their advantage over Bayern.
Starting XI: Bürki (7), Hakimi (7), Akanji (8), Zagadou (7), Diallo (6), Weigl (8), Witsel (6), Sancho (7), Gӧtze (8), Guerreiro (6), Alcacer (5).
Substitutions: Bruun Larsen (6), Dahoud (6), Wolf (N/A).
Sancho was quietly effective during the win. Dortmund were not at their best by any means but the Englishman remained their key player in the absence of Marco Reus. Sancho continues to grow every game he plays and he put in another great performance against Leverkusen.
Sancho scored an exceptional volley and grabbed an assist as he continues to be Dortmund's star man of the season.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Starting XI: Hradecky (6), Weiser (6), Tah (7), Bender (7), Jedvaj (6), Aranguiz (6), Baumgartlinger (6), Brandt (8), Havertz (8), Bailey (7), Volland (7).
Substitutions: Alario (7).
The Bundesliga leaders head to struggling Augsburg on Friday with Favre’s men looking to capitalise on their three point advantage over Bayern.
Leverkusen will aim to get back to winning ways when SC Freiburg visit the Bay Arena next Saturday