Dortmund end winless run at Gladbach, trim Bayern’s lead

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany —

Borussia Dortmund’s impressive 3-1 win at Borussia Mönchengladbach was not simply a result of the brilliant attacking threat of Thomas Tuchel’s side, but a test of its mettle as well. Professional and focused, the Black and Yellows cut the deficit at the top of the league back to eight points with goals from Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan. It was a win that ended a winless run in Mönchengladbach that stretched back to 2009.

Under the guidance of Andre Schubert, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s season has turned on its head. Schubert, the former U-23 coach, replaced Lucien Favre who resigned following five successive defeats at the start of the season. Gladbach’s resurgence was vast, unbeaten in their next 10 games, which included a 3-1 win over Bayern Munich. But the Foals’ form dipped towards the end of the year with three defeats in a row in three different competitions.

Post-match: Gladbach 1-3 Dortmund

Posted by Ross Dunbar on Saturday, January 23, 2016

Schubert’s changes from the 3-2 win at home to Darmstadt, which concluded the Hinrunde, were largely enforced upon him. Granit Xhaka was suspended, while Thorgan Hazard has picked up an ear infection since returning from the winter training camp in Belek, Turkey. The inclusion which gained the most rapturous applause from the home crowd was that of veteran defender Martin Stranzl who has made 142 appearances for the club.

His successor of the right centerback position is Andreas Christensen, on loan from Chelsea until the end of the season. The Danish youngster headed over unmarked in the box after five minutes. Christensen had a torrid time on his hands looking after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who should have slotted a simple chance away on eight minutes. As the hosts fired wide through Oscar Wendt, Aubameyang’s path was blocked by Yann Sommer who made a vital intervention one-against-one.

Dortmund’s supremacy was inspired by its numerical superiority between the lines, where Gonzalo Castro and Gundogan were especially dangerous. On 32 minutes, Dortmund’s dynamic central-midfielder sparked a superb one-touch move, the type of incisive football that saw the yellow-and-blacks net the highest number of goals in the Hinrunde. But Gundogan’s long-range piledriver cannoned against the crossbar, although Sommer might have had it covered.

Aubameyang, recently named Africa’s Footballer of the Year, snatched at an almost identical chance to the one missed early on. In the 34th minute, the Gabon striker’s clever movement deceived his marker Andreas Christensen, but the Dortmund forward miskicked the draw back from the impressive Lukasz Piszczek who started at right-back ahead of Matthias Ginter.

BUNDESLIGA RESULTS

There was little profligacy about Dortmund’s opener with four minutes left of the half. Piszczek fed Reus and the German international’s finish was powerful, crisp and nestled splendidly into the corner of the net. Mönchengladbach’s first serious threat in open play on 46 minutes should have dragged the game level as Ibrahima Traore’s effort was blocked superbly by Roman Bürki.

Three minutes later, Reus was crucially involved in Dortmund’s second, a textbook counterattacking move. Mats Hummels’ aggressive defensive play won back possession, Reus hit the breaks to allow his teammates to join the attack. The former Gladbach player picked out Mkhitaryan on the opposite side and the Armenian, the best creative threat in the league this season, finished from an angle on the left-hand side of the box.

A response from Gladbach threatened to bring the match to life on 58 minutes when Raffael carved out a yard of space in the box and drilled the ball into the corner. At this point in the first half of the season, Dortmund has shown a habit of caving in when under pressure, but Tuchel’s men stood firm and absorbed the pressure in the minutes that followed. Much-maligned captain Hummels was particularly outstanding, winning the vast majority of duels inside his defensive-third of the pitch.

Dortmund missed a golden chance to wrap up the win when Aubameyang raced through on Sommer’s goal, with little company from the Gladbach defense, but his ambitious chip just missed the target. However, to make the points safe, Dortmund’s third goal showed another great example of well-coordinated attacking play.

Mkhitaryan found space wide and accurately fired his cross at Gundogan in a crowded box, the midfielder finishing off with aplomb from close range. USA U-17 international Christian Pulisic never managed his first Bundesliga appearance, having been named on the bench following a good impact in the winter break, as Dortmund held out to kickoff the Rückrunde with an impressive three points.