Borussia Dortmund could only come away with a draw from Werder Bremen, whose goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka was in impressive form.
Marco Reus had given them an early lead, only for Thomas Delaney to head in an equaliser just before the half-time break.
Pavlenka then kept out all they threw at them in the second half, with the woodwork coming into play as well, as Bremen remained unbeaten at home under Florian Kohfeldt and Dortmund missed the chance to go back up to second.
Reus cements Dortmund dominance but they’re caught out before the break
VfL Wolfsburg’s defeat on Saturday secured Bremen’s Bundesliga status despite having themselves picked up just one point from their last three games. They made five changes from the 2-0 defeat last weekend to VfB Stuttgart, with Sebastian Langkamp, Ludwig Augustinsson, Milot Rashica, Zlatko Junuzovic and Delaney all coming in. Dortmund knew a win would all but confirm their place in next season’s UEFA Champions League as well as move them above Schalke 04 on goal difference, and were unchanged from the 4-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.
Bremen tried to test their guests early on, but efforts such as that from Rasicha would not have had them too concerned. Dortmund would not waste too much time in taking control of that match. Lukasz Piszczek and Reus both came close after exchanging passes, with the Pole’s effort blocked and Reus firing wide from the rebound. Manuel Akanji than evaded a possible foul as he came into the box from the left, Maximilian Philipp took the ball but his shot was saved by Pavlenka.
Dortmund’s next big attacking move would see them take the lead. Jadon Sancho gave the Bremen defenders a run around before Mario Götze put the ball into the box. Piszczek headed the ball down to Philipp but his shot was blocked. Reus though picked up the loose ball and made it 1-0.
The hosts’ response was a good one. Augustinsson’s cross found Junuzovic whose shot was put out by Roman Bürki. The resulting corner looked to have come to nothing, but the ball fell to Max Kruse – he beat Bürki with his effort but saw it go wide. Dortmund then came close to making it two just before the break, with an excellent ball on the halfway line from Götze finding Reus. Pavlenka made sure though that he didn’t get his second of the game.
That save was made even more important shortly after as Bremen took their chance to go into the break level in messy circumstances. Augustinsson got the better of Sancho to whip the ball into the box, with Theodor Gebre Selassie meeting the cross with his head. Ömer Toprak and Bürki both got in a mess as the ball went towards Delaney, with his powerful, looping header enough to put the ball in the back of the net.
Pavlenka shines to prevent Dortmund claiming victory
The momentum from that goal carried Bremen into the second half, with Eggestein involved in all their best moments. He was denied on one occasion when Sokratis made a vital intervention, before his shot from distance was claimed easily enough by Bürki in Dortmund’s goal.
After a quieter spell, Dortmund then thought they had restored their lead, when substitute André Schürrle's hook found Reus, beating Pavlenka with his pass to Toprak, who scored, although both were clearly offside. Reus was then the beneficiary of another excellent forward ball, this time from Sancho, but his shot took a deflection and hit the post. Akanji then showed his attacking abilities again, with a strike that was tipped by Pavlenka onto the bar and over.
In the space of five minutes both sides then came close again to taking the lead. For the hosts, Kruse saw a shot deflect over off Toprak, before Reus was lucky not to score an own goal when a Junuzovic cross came off his foot. Philipp then put a volley over for Dortmund, followed by Schürrle having a shot saved from Pavlenka, before Sancho headed the rebound into the crossbar.
Pavlenka was ultimately the difference between these two sides, as without his efforts Dortmund would have come away with all three points. He came to Bremen’s rescue again when the impressive Englishman Sancho placed the ball into the box for Schürrle to head on into goal, but the keeper stopped it with his out-stretched hand.
Even in the closing moments he did his bit to preserve Bremen’s point and what was to become a 12-game unbeaten run at home, keeping out a cross from Reus, before watching on as both Sokratis and Reus struck off target. Dortmund will have to wait until next week’s meeting with 1. FSV Mainz 05, who won surprisingly convincingly against RB Leipzig earlier in the day, to confirm their top four spot.
Sunday’s other Bundesliga result
1. FSV Mainz 05 3-0 RB Leipzig (1-0, De Blasis 29’ (P); 2-0, Maxim 85’; 3-0, Baku 90’)