Borussia Dortmund isn’t going to be able to challenge for a Bundesliga title this season, but a late run for a European place may not be entirely out of the question.
Although teenager Timon Wellenreuther was remarkable in goal for Schalke 04, a relentless BvB onslaught finally wore down the visiting defense and Dortmund collected a 3-0 victory Saturday afternoon in the Rhine-Main derby.
Across the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen moved fourth in the table after a 1-0 win over SC Freiburg; a late Salomon Kalou goal gave Hertha BSC Berlin a much-needed 1-0 success against Augsburg; Hoffenheim topped FSV Mainz 2-0; Hannover and VfB Stuttgart finished 1-1 in the other matches.
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Dortmund, winning for the fourth straight time in the league, climbed to ninth it appears they can finally put their relegation fears to bed. Indeed, they now just sit eight points back of Leverkusen, currently sitting in a UEFA Champions League playoff spot for next season.
Saturday, BvB wound up with a 31-3 shots advantage as they applied maximum pressure from the start at Signal Iduna Park. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrykh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus got the goals but they were foiled by Wellenreuther until the closing stages.
As early as the fourth minute Aubameyang had a clean break but the 19-year-old Wellenreuther beat him with a foot save and that signalled the story of the opening 45 minutes. Reus had a drive go across the face of goal in the 15th minute, then Shinji Kagawa lobbed over the Schalke keeper only to see his shot bounce wide of the far post. Reus hit the bar in the 31st minute, then made a good run along the 18 only to snap his shot wide of the near, left post in the 41st. Kevin-Prince Boateng had a rare good look for Schalke, too, but also failed to get his shot on the frame while Aubameyang also had another good chance blocked in the center of the Schalke defense.
Reus was denied by a one-handed save from Wellenreuther just after the start of the second half as BvB continued to push the pace without any luck in front of the young Schalke keeper. Twenty minutes later it was Mkhitaryan’s turn to be beaten by Wellenreuther, then Reus saw a free kick punched away with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
Dortmund finally broke through in the 78th minute when Aubameyang gave the young keeper no chance when Mhkitaryan caught the defense ball-watching and slipped a soft pass that was finished with aplomb. Then it was 2-0 just two minutes later when Mkhitaryan finally scored his first goal of the season, sliding to finish a cross from Ilkay Guendogan after Reus had begun the attack on the right. Reus then got his deserved goal with five minutes remaining.
The winning goal for Leverkusen was the only one scored in the first half in the entire league. Karim Bellarabi did the set-up work on the right, beating two defenders before putting his cross in front of keeper Roman Buerki. The Freiburg keeper could only parry the ball into the path of Simon Rolfes, who had space 15 yards out to slot home the 31st minute strike. Freiburg might have scored earlier, but Bernd Leno did well to keep a 27th-minute Jonathan Schmid free out.
Kalou, who had not been finding the net since moving to his new club last fall, produced in the 88th minute to allow Hertha to jump out of the drop zone, although their 14th place is flattering since they are just two points ahead of 17th-placed Freiburg, currently sitting in an automatic relegation position.
Christian Gentner opened the scoring in Hannover when the home defense left him alone on the left side of the box to collect a ball that fell eight yards away from goal. Hiroki Sakai and Timo Werner went up together to the ball from the right and combined to knock the ball down for Gentner to snap his shot to the opposite right corner in the 52nd minute. The lead lasted only 18 minutes, Lars Strindl open six yards away to finish when Joselu headed a long cross down to him at the opposite post.
Roberto Firmino supplied the perfect cross for Kevin Volland as Hoffenheim went ahead in the 55th minute. Volland stayed onside, timed his run perfectly and was alone at the right post when Firmino supplied the cross that split the Mainz defense. Eugen Polanski made it 2-0 with a far post header to a fine, inswinging cross from Andreas Beck.
In the night game, Alexander Meier scored twice to take his season tally to 16 as Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Hamburger SV 2-1 to move to eighth place while keeping HSV pinned to 15th, just a point clear of the drop zone. Meier hit the bar with a stoppage time penalty that would have given him a hat trick and allowed him to pull level with Bundesliga scoring leader Arjen Robben.
Eintracht took the lead on a 12th minute Meier penalty but HSV got even with virtually the last kick of the first half when Nicolai Mueller threaded a wonderful pass through for Zoltan Stieber to finish in stoppage time. Meier then struck nine minutes into the second half, threading the ball through some traffic to the low right corner from 18 yards.
The round concludes on Sunday with second-place VfL Wolfsburg at Werder Bremen and Borussia Moenchengladbach home to Paderborn.