Thomas Tuchel made a successful return to the city where earned the label of a top Bundesliga coach as BvB Dortmund used a first-half goal from Marco Reus and a late-game strike from Henrikh Mkhitaryan to defeat FSV Mainz 2-0 on Friday night.
A remarkable 10-match goal-scoring streak came to an end for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, however, as he set up two goals but was unable to find the back of the net himself.
The triumph in a fast-paced contest enabled second-place Dortmund to snap a four-match winless streak as they climbed to within four points of leaders Bayern Munich. Mainz remained eighth in the table, losing for the fifth time in nine starts, and for the third time in five home matches. They likely will drop further down the table when the weekend matches are played Saturday and Sunday.
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Tuchel was back in Mainz for the first time since leaving the club in 2014 after 170 matches and five years during which he lifted them into the top levels of the Bundesliga, earning a UEFA Europa League place in his final season in charge. He took last year off before accepting the challenge of replacing Jürgen Klopp as Dortmund boss. So far he has changed the Dortmund approach without limiting their attacking flair, but a 5-1 hammering at Bayern Munich in the last match before the international break meant that BvB badly needed a bounce-back performance Friday.
They got it without ever really looking in difficulty.
Aubameyang, who had scored in the first eight Bundesliga matches this season to add to goals in his final two games at the end of the last campaign, was bidding to become the first player in the German league’s history to score in 11 consecutive contests. The 26-year old native of Gabon has now scored 39 goals in 75 Bundesliga appearances since joining Dortmund from St. Etienne in 2013.
His best scoring opportunity came with 15 minutes left when Shinji Kagawa cut a neat pass across the box, but the striker could not keep his first-time attempt down and wound up skying the ball harmlessly away. He also had a drive go just past the left post in the 80th minute after running down a good through pass but he was the playmaker rather than finisher on this night.
A loose pass from Niko Bungert in the heart of the Mainz defense opened the door for Reus to put Dortmund on top in the 18th minute. Bungert’s poor delivery found the feet of Mkhitaryan in space at the top right of the box and the Armenian international immediately spotted Aubameyang to his left. Aubameyang continued the passing movement, spotting Reus open on the left for the finish.
Mainz was dangerous on two set pieces in the opening half, but their chances were few and far between on the night. The first opportunity came in the ninth minute when Mkhitaryan brought down Jairo Samperio near the top of the box only for Pierre Bengtsson to hook the resulting free kick wide of the near right post. It was another foul, Sokratis on Yoshinori Muto in the 32rd minute, that gave Jairo a free straight out at the top of the D, but Roman Bürki reacted well in the Dortmund goal, touching the shot off the far and over. That was as close as the home team would come.
The visitors missed a golden change just after the second half kicked off. Aubameyang was brought down by Bungert — possibly outside pf the box — in the 47th minute. When Reus failed to make it 2-0 ny putting the resulting spot kick within the reach of Loris Karius perhaps justice was done. The Mainz keeper dove to his right to get both hands behind the ball.
Muto had a half-chance in the 58th minute but ran out of space before he could actually get a shot against the advancing, sliding Bürki, who read Yunus Malli’s touch-pass well and cut down the available angle immediately. The clinching goal came when Aubameyang fastened on to another poor Mainz pass deep in the attacking half, then found Mkhitaryan wide open to accept the pass and finish in the 83rd minute.
Dortmund’s defense did a solid job, especially keeping an eye on Malli, who came into the match with six goals, half of Mainz’ account for the season. He got little opportunity to make plays Friday evening as Dortmund deprived him of passing angles when he did try to assert himself.
Saturday’s slate is topped by Bayern Munich’s visit to Werder Bremen. Bayern has won all eight of its Bundesliga matches this season and will be looking both to extend that streak and to maintain its form ahead of their UEFA Champions League trip to London where they will face Arsenal next Tuesday.