Bayer Leverkusen prevailed in the headline match of Matchday 17 as they saw off Borussia Dortmund in an entertaining fixture at BayArena.
In what proved to be a real game of two halves, an error-strewn Dortmund were punished in the first half with Moussa Diaby’s effort giving the hosts the lead at half time.
It could, and perhaps should’ve been more for Leverkusen, but the Black & Yellows responded with a dominant second half showing themselves.
Julian Brandt fired home an equaliser midway through the second period against his former club, but just when it looked like the visitors would go on to win all three points, back came Leverkusen and Florian Wirtz’s strike ten minutes from time gave the hosts victory.
Only a marginal goal superior goal difference separated the two teams in third and fourth ahead of kick off, but it was Leverkusen who sealed the points to go four points behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich ahead of their game on Wednesday. Should they prevail at Augsburg, Dortmund would now fall ten points behind the table toppers.
The first chance of the game fell to the Werkself, as Wirtz stung the palms of Roman Burki inside the second minute. However, Dortmund then looked to find their rhythm with both Brandt and Marco Reus having half chances come and go, before Bayer keeper Lukas Hradecky pipped Erling Haaland to a long ball through to clear under pressure.
Despite that, as the half wore on the hosts looked to slow down the tempo when in possession to control the game, and the opening goal came on the counter attack after 14 minutes.
Leon Bailey found the ball on the halfway line and launched a great diagonal ball over the Dortmund defence and into the path of Diaby. His first touch was sublime, which allowed the winger time to fire through the legs of Burki.
Dortmund were proving to be their own worst enemy, conceding possession far too easily as they looked to break down a stubborn Leverkusen back line. And some bad mistakes in build-up play almost cost them further goals.
Right-winger Diaby was at the heart of the attack, either as provider – such as for Lucas Alario’s header which Burki saved brilliantly on the stroke of half time – or as the shot taker himself. Twice he tested the Dortmund stopper before half time, and ultimately the visitors had Burki to thank for only being a goal down by the time half time came.
Edin Terzic’s side came out from the interval with an improved structure and, seven minutes into the second half, had a big chance to draw level. Jude Bellingham threaded a precise pass into Reus inside the area, who beat Jonathan Tah but couldn’t quite manage to find Raphael Guerreiro for the finish inside six yards.
Dortmund continued to dominate, with Jadon Sancho spurring a great opportunity when firing wide from twelve yards before Thomas Meunier blasted high and wide of the near post when well placed after Sancho did well to play in the full back.
Brandt strikes against former club
The Black & Yellows maintained their pressure, and were duly rewarded midway through the second half. Thomas Delaney won the ball high up the pitch and Guerreiro played the ball to Brandt, who found space on the edge of the box before curling his effort into the bottom corner for his first goal of the season.
Barely a minute later, he almost made it two. After good work from Bellingham, the goal was gaping for Brant at the far post, but Edmond Tapsoba did well to cover and clear off the line. Dormund didn’t let up as Reus found Sancho, who drove into space on the left hand side of the box, but his effort went well wide of the mark.
For all their dominance though, Dortmund still found themselves on level terms and were dealt a reminder of the threat their hosts possess when Diaby once again went for goal, but was thwarted again by Burki.
With the clock ticking down, the game had finally evolved into the high-octane, back-and-forth encounter expected before kick off, and it was Leverkusen who pounced on a mistake to deliver the knock-out blow.
Wirtz wins it
Diaby linked up well with substitute Patrik Schick before slipping a pass through to the wide-open Wirtz in the middle, and the 17-year old drove for goal before his strike from the edge of the area gave Burki no chance.
The hectic closing stages of the match saw Dortmund press for the equaliser, but unable to really test Hradecky in the Leverkusen goal as the hosts saw out a big win.