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Dortmund’s title hopes suddenly shaky as Leverkusen visit

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BERLIN (AP) With Borussia Dortmund’s lead shrinking, one of its former coaches could deliver another blow to the team’s Bundesliga title chances.

Peter Bosz will take his Bayer Leverkusen team to Dortmund on Sunday. If Bayern Munich wins on Saturday and Dortmund loses the next day, the two teams will be tied at the top of the standings.

Six-time defending champion Bayern, which trailed by nine points a few weeks ago, has won three straight and hosts Hertha Berlin.

Despite his dismissal in December 2017, Bosz is fondly remembered in Dortmund, where he can be sure of a warm welcome on his return.

“Peter is a very fine guy, and an outstanding coach,” said Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke, who regretted having to let the Dutch coach go after eight competitive games without a win.

“You have such situations. But that has nothing to do with the regard we have for each other, rather that our team wasn’t optimal for him and his philosophy.”

Leverkusen started with a loss in Bosz’s first game in charge but has been the best team in the Bundesliga since the winter break, racking up wins over Wolfsburg (3-0), Bayern (3-1), Mainz (5-1) and Fortuna Duesseldorf (2-0).

Bosz took over at Leverkusen from Heiko Herrlich in time for the second half of the season. Under him, Leverkusen produced 1,053 passes in the win over Duesseldorf on Sunday, a number not seen since Pep Guardiola coached Bayern against Hertha in March 2014 and produced 1,078 passes.

The outstanding Kai Havertz has been one of those to benefit.

“Of course its more fun to have possession than to run around after the ball. There are many things that are different, many positive changes. You can see that from game to game,” the 19-year-old midfielder said.

“We’re aware that we’re not perfect yet. We’ve only been together two months. But we’re getting better from game to game and that’s showing in the results, too.”

Dortmund has been held to draws by Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim (conceding three late goals after leading 3-0) and most recently last-place Nuremberg, a team they had beaten 7-0 earlier in the season.

Watzke maintains he isn’t worried by the lack of form.

“Since summer and the rebuilding we’ve been repeating ad nauseam that this young team would suffer setbacks. It’s totally normal,” Watzke told the Bild tabloid on Wednesday. “Just the drop-off is big because of the strong performances in the first half of the season – we’re aware of that.”

Dortmund hasn’t been helped by Marco Reus’ absence. The team captain injured his thigh in the German Cup loss to Werder Bremen on Feb. 5. However, Manuel Akanji is on the verge of making his comeback. The Swiss central defender hasn’t played since Dec. 18.

Watzke pointed out that Dortmund has lost only once in 22 league games, and said he was unconcerned about Bayern’s resurgence.

“They weren’t our issue, they are not our issue and they will not be our issue,” Watzke said. “We’re quietly concentrating on ourselves, to cut out mistakes and to quickly get back on track with this young team.”

Bundesliga: Dortmund’s lead disappearing after three straight draws

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Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title hopes took another blow Monday in a goalless draw at last-place Nuremberg.

[ FA CUP: Paul Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video) ]

Nuremberg goalkeeper Christian Mathenia made a host of saves to deny Dortmund a first win in three league games. The Bundesliga leaders have now drawn three successive games and have seen their lead whittled down from nine points in the 15th round to three over six-time defending champion Bayern Munich.

The first half was marked by protests from the home fans against Monday night games, with supporters holding signs showing raised middle fingers and a huge banner criticizing the German soccer federation, the German soccer league “and co.” for making Nuremberg play on a Monday night for the second time this season.

The game was held up on a number of occasions when fans threw black tennis balls onto the pitch during Dortmund corners. The visitors were particularly aggrieved when referee Harm Osmers blew for half time before Dortmund could take its fourth corner as it had been held up by another barrage of balls.

Dortmund had toiled to break through Nuremberg’s tight defense, frustrated that Osmers did not call some questionable-looking challenges.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

Maximilian Philipp tried his luck from distance, but it was Nuremberg captain Hanno Behrens who had the first big chance in the 28th minute when he was denied by a reflex save from Roman Buerki. Behrens also went close from the resultant corner.

Mathenia then made three good saves in quick succession to deny Mario Goetze. Axel Witsel went close for Dortmund before the break before Mathenia again denied Goetze.

Goetze was again thwarted by another save from Mathenia early in the second half, and the trend was to continue with the visitors dominating possession but struggling to find a way through.

Dortmund’s Jacob Bruun Larsen thought he scored late but the goal was ruled out as fellow substitute Paco Alcacer had strayed offside before setting him up.

Dortmund has now failed to win any of its last five competitive games.

Nuremberg was playing its first game under interim coach Boris Schommers after it sacked Michael Koellner on Tuesday.

Tottenham holds advantage over Dortmund after first leg (video)

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Tottenham showed on Wednesday that against the top sides in Europe, they’re more than a two-trick pony.

Even without Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Tottenham surged to a confidence-boosting 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie. The match at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday began in a similar manner to Manchester United v. Paris Saint-Germain the night before, until a lapse of concentration led to Tottenham’s opener and game opened up from there.

[MORE: Champions League standings ]

Heung-Min Son, Jan Vertonghen and Fernando Llorente all scored for Spurs, who take a decisive three-goal advantage into the second leg in Germany on March 6. Meanwhile, it was the third-straight match for Dortmund where they had conceded three goals, and is another huge blow to the club that leads the Bundesliga by five points, with the margin slipping.

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After a back and forth first half, which featured Christian Pulisic taking a strike on goal from a narrow angle it only took 65 seconds or so for Tottenham to take the lead. Son found space behind the Dortmund defense and Vertonghen found him with a lofted cross, before Son scored with a right-footed volley.

Dortmund had to take a few risks to try and tie the match, though they also sat back at times, hoping to limit the damage. However, a mistake by Achraf Hakimi let Vertonghen burst into the box, and Serge Aurier found him with a beautiful cross to put Spurs up, 2-0 in the 83rd minute.

Three minutes later, substitute Llorente got his head on a corner kick that found the side netting, putting Tottenham in control of the tie.

Tottenham has to feel very confident of progressing to the quarterfinals at this stage, with a 3-0 lead. Dele Alli and Harry Kane could both return for the second leg, which could help Tottenham get a crucial away goal in Dortmund next month.

Vertonghen doubles the lead for Spurs (video)

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Jan Vertonghen was eyeing the goal the entire time. He noticed Achraf Hakimi had his back turned, and he took advantage.

Vertonghen latched onto a long ball from Serge Aurier into the box and, similar to Heung-Min Son, sent home a side-footed finish to put Tottenham up 2-0, to fully control the tie on Wednesday evening at Wembley Stadium. It’s just Vertonghen’s second goal of the season.

[WATCH: Son fires Tottenham into the lead]

Son fires Tottenham into the lead (video)

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It didn’t take very long for Tottenham to open up the scoring in Wednesday’s exciting UEFA Champions League match between it and Borussia Dortmund.

Less than 70 seconds into the second half, Jan Vertonghen‘s lofted cross fell perfectly for Heung-Min Son in the middle of the box, who side-footed a volley home to put Tottenham up 1-0. The goal came after an end-to-end first half that saw Christian Pulisic have a shot on goal saved as well as Tottenham threaten at times at the other end.

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For Son, it’s his fourth-straight game with a goal.