Borussia Dortmund kept up the pressure on Gladbach and Leipzig – the two teams above them in the table – by beating 1. FSV Mainz 05 4-0 (1-0) at the Opel Arena on Bundesliga Matchday 15 to claim their third league victory in succession.
Boris Rupert reporting from Mainz
BVB should have taken in a bigger lead at the break – they were 1-0 ahead courtesy of Marco Reus' ninth goal of the season – but they made up for it in the second half, Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard rounding off counter-attacks in the 66th and 69th minutes before Nico Schulz added another on 84 minutes to seal a deserved 4-0 win.
Third-placed BVB had won seven of their previous nine league clashes with 13th-placed Mainz and taken 10 points out of a possible 12 from their previous four visits to the Opel Arena.
Favre, who was without Witsel (face injury), Delaney (torn ankle ligaments), Schmelzer (fibre tear) and Hitz, made one change to the starting XI that beat Slavia Prague 2-1 on Tuesday: Guerreiro dropped to the bench and was replaced by Schulz.
Both teams lined up with three at the back but the two sets of wide midfielders (Öztzunali/Martin for Mainz and Hakimi/Schulz for Dortmund) would drop back to form a back five whenever the opposition had possession. The 05ers lined up in a 3-4-1-2 system with a focus on quick switch-play, while BVB went for a 3-2-4-1 in which Schulz mostly played deeper than Hakimi. Up front, Hazard, Reus and Sancho constantly changed positions.
The match & analysis:
It took around 10 minutes for BVB to take control of a game that started in hectic fashion with a number of possession turnovers and lots of throw-ins. Brandt was the pace-setter at the heart of midfield, with Reus the main goal threat. The captain had two shots blocked in the seventh minute, while Schulz spurned two good opportunities in the 10th and 12th minutes. Despite playing a significantly more defensive role than Sancho, the left-back posed a real threat going forward and twice teed up Reus, who fired over in the 20th minute and was denied by Zentner six minutes later.
But – much to the delight of the 4,000 travelling fans at the Opel Arena – the captain finally broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark. Hazard took a short corner and curled the ball into the danger zone towards Hummels. He headed it back into the path of Reus, who smashed home a low drive from 16 metres in the 32nd minute. A Brandt header sailed narrowly past the post on 37 minutes, then Hazard had a penalty claim waved away four minutes later. It was one of three controversial incidents that were not given in Borussia's favour.
Borussia continued to control and dominate the match in the second half, but Brandt's early header aside they struggled to get into dangerous areas and did not attack with enough purpose. But then Zagadou intercepted a Mainz attack several metres in front of his own box in the 66th minute and launched a five-against-one counter-attack. The Frenchman ran the full length of the pitch before squaring to Sancho, who doubled the lead from inside the box.
The third goal came from another counter-attack three minutes later. Reus broke down the left flank at speed and picked out Hazard, whose precise shot from exactly 16 metres zipped off the turf and through Zentner's fingers. The shot-stopper did manage to deny Sancho on the 72-minute mark, but was rather fortunate to see the Englishman smash a shot against the post in the 75th minute and miss an open goal from a Hakimi cross a minute later. In the 84th minute, Sancho received the ball from substitute Dahoud and fed Schulz, who drilled the fourth inside the far post.
Next up for BVB is a top-of-the-table midweek clash with Leipzig at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday (20:30 CET). That will be followed by the final home game before Christmas against TSG Hoffenheim next Friday.