Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund finish the first weekend of the Bundesliga in 2019 six points clear of defending champions Bayern Munich as Germany’s title race continues to excite.
A superb first-half strike from Axel Witsel sealed Dortmund’s 1-0 win at RB Leipzig on Saturday followed Bayern’s rampant 3-1 win at Hoffenheim on Friday as Leon Goretzka scored twice.
Here are five things we learned about the 18th round of Budnesliga matches:
– Dortmund can win without Reus –
Dortmund proved they can pick up three points without influential playmaker and captain Marco Reus who has scored 11 goals and claimed seven assists this campaign, after the winger missed Saturday’s away win with a knock picked up in training.
Defensive midfielder Julian Weigl was magnificent out of position at centre back in a makeshift defence with Omer Toprak, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Manuel Akanji injured.
Goalkeeper Roman Buerki also produced a superb display to twice deny both Marcel Sabitzer and Timo Werner.
Dortmund host strugglers Hanover 96 next Saturday, and sporting director Michael Zorc expects Reus to be out for “one or two weeks maximum”.
– ‘The hunt is on’ –
Leon Goretzka, Bayern’s man-of-the-match at Hoffenheim, was born in Bochum, started his career at Schalke and revealed that for most of his career another side from western Germany, Dortmund have been bitter rivals for the clubs he has played for.
“It’s a rivalry which has been there my whole life, not just at Schalke,” said Goretzka, 23, after his superb first-half goals contributed to Bayern’s sixth straight league win.
“It started in the youth teams at Bochum. It will always be there.
“The first win after the winter break is important, to continue on the right path.
“The hunt is on,” he added, with one eye on Dortmund.
– Forgiven, forgotten –
Nico Schulz, who scored Hoffenheim’s consolation goal, says Kingsley Coman has forgiven him for his horror tackle which sidelined the Bayern winger for three months.
There was a nice scene as the players trudged off at half-time on Friday when Schulz hugged Coman and apologised for the tackle which tore the Frenchman’s ankle ligaments.
Coman was ruled out until November after Schulz’s scything tackle in Bayern’s 3-1 win in Munich in August.
“I just wanted to know if he’s OK and how he feels,” Schulz, who was only booked for the lunging tackle on Coman’s ankle, told reporters when asked about the apology.
“He said that everything is good, he’s okay again and it’s forgotten.”
– Frankfurt’s goal kings –
Eintracht Frankfurt are on course to qualify for the Champions League – and are reportedly hoping they can keep their goal-scoring trio of strikers.
Forwards Luka Jovic (13 goals), Sebastian Haller (10) and Ante Rebic (6) have scored 29 of Frankfurt’s 37 goals this season and the trio all netted in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Freiburg.
Jovic, 21, the league’s top-scorer, is on loan and Eintracht are eager to pay the six million euros ($6.8m) which Benfica want for the 21-year-old.
However, fifth-placed Frankfurt will only be able to keep all three forwards for next season by finishing in the top four to qualify for the Champions League, which according to reports will bring in key extra revenue.
– Better than Spurs… –
Tottenham Hotspur-target Jonas Hofmann prefers third-placed Moenchengladbach to the North London outfit amidst rumours the Premier League side want to sign the 26-year-old midfielder in the current transfer window.
A goal by French winger Alessanne Plea, set up by Hofmann, sealed Gladbach’s 1-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday to stay three points behind Bayern in the title race.
Talks with Spurs have already taken place, but Hoffmann played the speculation down when asked if he prefered Tottenham to Moenchengladbach.
“Gladbach is better at the moment,” grinned Hofmann, who has scored five goals and set up four more this season.
“I am not the kind of player who has to go abroad, I feel well in Gladbach,” he added with his club on course for Champions League football next season.