Borussia Dortmund clobbered bottom-dwelling Paderborn 6-1 on Sunday, piling on the goals late at Benteler Arena.
Jadon Sancho scored three goals in his return to the Starting XI, celebrating the first by removing his jersey to reveal a “Justice For George Floyd” message on his undershirt.
Dortmund stays seven points back of Bayern Munich with five matches to play and moves four points clear of both Gladbach and Bayer Leverkusen. RB Leipzig is five points back of second and plays Monday versus Koln.
Paderborn’s three-match unbeaten run is done, the last-place side eight points back of the relegation playoff spot and nine back of automatic safety. Uwe Hunemeier scored from the spot for the hosts.
Dortmund controlled possession but Paderborn manufactured some minor chances early before the visitors came close.
That’s when Julian Brandt set up Raphael Guerreiro for a shot across goal that bounded wide of the frame.
Brandt had a chance to curl a shot on goal just before half, but sliced the effort.
The breakthrough came just under nine minutes after half when Paderborn goalkeeper Leopold Zingerle couldn’t hold Emre Can’s hard cross and Hazard was in the catbird seat to slot home.
Sancho then scored his first from close range before a controversial penalty awarded for a sliding block by Emre Can allowed Hunemeier to convert from the spot. That made it 2-1 in the 72nd minute.
The English winger bagged his second goal with a powerful striker Zingerle could only turn inside his near post in the 74th minute, and BVB scored three more times from the 85th minute.
American teen Giovanni Reyna came off the bench and had a goal ruled out in his 10-minute cameo. He had nine touches, completed all five of his passes, and registered a shot. Reyna both of his duels, drew one foul, and made a clearance (Stats by Sofascore).
The Bundesliga returned to screens this weekend, kickstarting the race to stop Bayern Munich’s quest for a eighth-straight league title.
The leaders kept up their winning ways, but Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach each made statements of intent in the fight for first while Bayer Leverkusen kept their slim hopes alive and RB Leipzig took a step back.
It was a fun weekend, albeit with an eerieness befitting what they call “ghost games” in Germany.
Havertz shines, makes history in front of a focused audience
There was only one match Monday, and fans across the world were trained on the Weserstadion. Most will have wondered about 20-year-old Bayer Leverkusen striker Kai Havertz, who has been linked with seemingly every big club under the sun.
Despite playing out-of-position at center forward, Havertz did not disappoint in the least (though he was helped by Bremen’s porous back line). A pair of well-directed headed goals in a six-minute first-half span put Bayer en route to a 4-1 win, making him the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score 30 goals.
The 6-foot-2 attacking midfielder had a slow start to the season after scoring 17 times last year, but he’s humming along now.
He’s now scored 40 times with 30 assists in 140 senior appearances, including nine goals and seven assists since Germany returned from Winterpause to kick off calendar year 2020. Havertz may start the next calendar year in the Premier League (though he may prefer Bayern Munich).
Hertha Berlin rises up
Sitting 16th when the calendar hit December, Hertha is now eight points clear of the relegation picture and a point ahead of rivals Union Berlin ahead of this Friday’s Berlin Derby.
The visitors won 3-0 away to Hoffenheim in keeping what’s only their second clean sheet of 2020. Led by hard-charging forward Vedad Ibisevic, Hertha played the role of enforcers and kept Hoffenheim on edge. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t supposed to be as Hertha committed 17 fouls and unleashed 77 long balls.
If that’s what it’s going to take to get the ambitious capital club to another transfer window and a chance to reboot the club, well, Hertha may have to consider that. There are still a lot of tough fixtures on the schedule and it may take grit to keep it sound.
Hertha’s on its third manager of the season in Bruno Labbadia, who debuted with a win. He’s been around the block in German football, and the 54-year-old set his side up for success.
Great in defeat
Austrian busybody Florian Grillitsch was a monster in the middle of the park during Hoffenheim’s 3-0 loss to Hertha Berlin.
Grillitsch made six tackles, three interceptions, and won 13 of 17 duels while completing all three dribbles and passing at 93 percent. He also drew four fouls and registered a key pass. He won’t have loved coming up short on charging to fill space on Hertha’s third goal, but the match was out-of-hand at that point.
Player of the Week
Dominating a Revierderby while showing so little rust is impressive enough that Dortmund had a lot of candidates for the Best XI. One man stood out from the pack.
Julian Brandt had two assists and three key passes in Dortmund’s four-star win, playing his first match since turning 24 earlier this month. Five tackles and perfect in take-ons, Brandt and Thorgan Hazard were wonderful underneath Erling Haaland.
This flick for the hockey assist… come on! Amazing burst by Haaland to finish, too.
Hertha Berlin v. Union Berlin — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Freiburg v. Werder Bremen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Paderborn v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Wolfsburg v. Borussia Dortmund — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Bayer Leverkusen — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Bayern Munich v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Schalke v. Augsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Mainz v. RB Leipzig — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Koln v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — Noon ET Sunday
Robin Quaison scored three goals, two during a nine-minute blitz that saw the visitors take a 3-0 lead after just 19 minutes.
Augsburg 3-0 Fortuna Dusseldorf
Philipp Max scored twice and added an assist as USMNT goalkeeper Zach Steffen was again under fire, making four saves in a loss for the relegation-threatened club.
Fellow American player Alfredo Morales went 90 minutes as was his normal tackle-ready self despite passing at a poor 60 percent.
Union Berlin 0-2 Hoffenheim
Ilhas Bebou and substitute Christoph Baumgartner score
Bayer Leverkusen v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Paderborn — 2:30 p.m. ET
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Koln — 2:30 p.m. ET
Freiburg v. Bayern Munich — 2:30 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Schalke — 2:30 p.m. ET
Zack Steffen was under siege but only beaten once in his Bundesliga debut, as the Man City loanee from these United States helped the visitors to a massive three points on Saturday.
Steffen saw 25 attempts from the hosts, including two from American substitute Josh Sargent, as Fortuna Dusseldorf got into the win column. From Bundesliga.com/En:
“It’s a lot of new challenges for me, and I want to perform and execute my job,” said the former Columbus Crew backstop. “I’ve got a good group of guys around me, a good coaching staff to lift me up and give me confidence, and make me feel at home.”
Borussia Dortmund 5-1 Augsburg
Augsburg’s first minute goal from Florian Niederlechner had some thinking that BVB could join Bayern Munich in an opening weekend stumble, but that was simply a mirage.
Paco Alcacer scored twice, new boy Julian Brandt also scored, and Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho found the score sheet as BVB scorched the visitors at the Westfalenstadion.
It was expected to be a cakewalk for the Champions League outfit, but Bayer had to twice overcome pesky Paderborn equalizers.
Leon Bailey and Kai Havertz had their 10th and 19th minute goals answered before Kevin Volland put it to bed in the 69th.
Bayern Munich 2-2 Hertha Berlin — Friday Freiburg 3-0 Mainz Borussia Monchengladbach 0-0 Schalke
Wolfsburg 2-1 Koln
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Union Berlin v. RB Leipzig — Noon ET Sunday
That Christian Pulisic money is going far and wide for Borussia Dortmund.
Hot off the heels of signing Thorgan Hazard for $38 million on Wednesday and adding German defender Nico Schulz for $30 million, Dortmund have signed Julian Brandt for $30 million.
Not bad business after getting $73 million for Pulisic…
Brandt, 23, was linked with a move to the Premier League to Tottenham Hotspur and others in recent months but the Bayer Leverkusen winger will remain in the Bundesliga. His combination of speed out wide and cutting inside to finish off moves has seen him become a regular for the German national team.
After finishing second in the Bundesliga this season, Dortmund are wasting no time in stealing a march on Bayern Munich who fought back from a nine-point deficit to win the title on the final day of the season.
Bayern’s offseason plans have seen them add defender Lucas Hernandez for a club record $85 million, while his French national team teammate Benjamin Pavard, who can also play at center back and full back, will also arrive for $38 million.
That said, Dortmund’s early moves this offseason are impressive and may even install Lucien Favre’s men as the preseason favorites to win the German title.