Borussia Dortmund took an important step in the right direction as they returned to winning ways with a 2-1 away win at Hertha BSC on Bundesliga Matchday 13.
Boris Rupert reporting from Berlin
BVB raced into an early 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard in the 15th and 17th minutes respectively, but Vladimir Darida pulled one back for Hertha in the 34th minute and the visitors had to play the entire second half with 10 men following Mats Hummels' red card in first-half stoppage time.
Borussia Dortmund had lost only one of their previous 11 competitive meetings with Hertha BSC and only one of their last 11 outings in the Bundesliga, although there had been only three wins during that run. The capital club, meanwhile, had lost their last four league games on the bounce.
Alcácer (infection and laceration on his knee), Delaney (torn ligaments) and Bruun Larsen (knee problem) were joined on the sidelines by Weigl (muscular problem). Zagadou, Sancho and Hazard came in for Schulz, Piszczek and Weigl.
As he had done for the final quarter-hour in Barcelona, Favre opted for a back three with Zagadou (left) and Akanji (right) on either side of Hummels. Brandt played alongside Witsel in the middle of the park, while Hakimi (right) and Guerreiro (left) started on the flanks. Hazard lined up as the central striker in Dortmund's 3-4-3 formation, with Reus and Sancho operating slightly behind him on either side. The English youngster was man-marked by Hertha's Stark whenever he drifted into a centre-left position. The capital club also opted to start with a back three, but as part of a 3-5-2 formation with two centre-forwards (Selke and Lukebakio). Skjelbred played in central defensive midfield. On the right side, Wolf frequently dropped back to expand the defence into a back four.
Following Hummels' red card, BVB switched to a 4-4-1 formation in the second period with Hakimi, Akanji, Zagadou and Guerreiro in the back four and Hazard, Brandt, Witsel and Sancho in midfield. Reus was the lone frontman.
The match & analysis:
The capital club's hard-line approach saw Guerreiro and Hazard down on the turf clutching their faces in the opening minutes, although both players were able to continue. Reus was then lucky to emerge unscathed from a rough Darida challenge that earned the Hertha man a booking. Grujic had earlier seen yellow for the elbow on Guerreiro.
Dortmund had Brandt to thank for their first goal in the 13th minute. The midfielder threaded a perfectly-weighted diagonal ball through the defence towards Sancho, who held his nerve in the box and fired past Kraft. It was only two minutes before the Black & Yellows were celebrating their next goal. The move was started by Akanji, who played an intelligent pass towards Hakimi. The Moroccan crossed into the box towards Hazard, who beat his marker to the ball and volleyed home. It could have even been three 120 seconds later but Akanji's header was kept out by Kraft.
The Black & Yellows continued to look confident and in control without adding to their lead. At the other end, meanwhile, Lukebakio had an effort saved by Bürki on the half-hour mark. Then, with 34 minutes played, the former Düsseldorf man picked up the ball on the right before cutting inside and taking a shot from 19 metres that was deflected into the net by Darida. The goal brought Hertha back into the game, but Dortmund stayed largely in control until an incident a minute into first-half stoppage time changed the complexion of the match: Hummels was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Selke and dismissed. Lukebakio hit the side-netting with the ensuing free-kick.
Hertha thought they had levelled the score at 2-2 shortly after the restart, but Selke's goal in the 48th minute was disallowed by VAR for offside. As the minutes ticked by, the 10 men of Dortmund kept their 11 opponents at bay – but no longer had control over the game and often gave the ball away straight after winning it back due to misplaced passes. But they fought for every blade of grass and did come close to scoring several more times in the final quarter-hour: Hakimi's square ball across the box eluded his team-mates before Witsel missed narrowly (80). Then, three minutes later, Guerreiro cut the ball back from the byline towards the penalty spot but no-one was there to take advantage.
Halfway through the four minutes of stoppage time, Kalou headed the ball narrowly wide. Dortmund continued to defend fervently and rode out the last few moments of danger to claim the three points.
The home game against Fortuna Düsseldorf next Saturday (kick-off 15:30 CET) will mark the start of the last two English weeks of the 2019 calendar year. During that period, BVB will face Slavia Prague (H), Mainz (A), Leipzig (H) and Hoffenheim (A).