Borussia Dortmund will begin the new year in pole position to win their first Bundesliga title since 2012 after beating second-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach 2-1 on Friday.
An outstanding goal from English teenager Jadon Sancho and a sliding finish from Marco Reus ensured Dortmund end the first half of the German season top of the table as “autumn champions” going into the winter break.
Dortmund captain Reus admitted they showed some signs of tiredness following three league games in the last six days, including Tuesday’s shock 2-1 defeat at strugglers Fortuna Duesseldorf.
“You could see in the last 20 minutes that we were on our knees,” admitted match-winner Reus.
“A few weeks break will do us good so that we can attack again in the new year – the job is half done.”
The win puts Dortmund nine points clear of ‘Gladbach, who are level on points with reigning champions Bayern Munich who have a chance to cut the gap to six points when they face Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Sancho, the 18-year-old whose progress has been a major factor in Dortmund’s fine season, squeezed a shot in from the tightest of angles on 42 minutes after the lively Reus had crossed and Mario Goetze helped the ball on to the youngster.
Gladbach pulled level just before the break with a controversial goal from Christoph Kramer, which came after a goalmouth scramble that appeared to involve a handball but which the referee ruled valid after checking the VAR.
After the break, Reus charged in to put Dortmund back in front with Goetze the provider. Reus then slammed a free-kick against a post as Dortmund returned to winning ways after losing for the first time this season at Dusseldorf.
Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre played an experimental back four with Germany’s defensive midfielder Julian Weigl partnering Omer Toprak at centre-back.
“We deserved the win and now a few days of holiday,” said Favre.
“Julian Weigl played really well, created a lot of movement and solved a few problems for us at the back – it worked well.”