BERLIN (AP) — Julian Brandt scored with his back and Borussia Dortmund held on to move to the top of the Bundesliga after beating Hoffenheim 1-0 on Saturday.
It was Dortmund’s ninth win from nine games across all competitions this year and enough for the team to move three points clear of 10-time defending champion Bayern Munich and surprise challenger Union Berlin.
Bayern, which has seen its four-point lead disappear since the winter break, hosts Union on Sunday.
Brandt scored for the fourth consecutive league game for Dortmund. Marco Reus whipped in a free kick and Brandt bent forward so the ball skimmed in off his back shortly before the break.
“Things are working out for us at the moment,” Brandt said. “A little bit of luck is part of it. We’re efficient. Today we were a little less efficient then we’ve been over the past few weeks, when we played very well. We have many guys in great form and, as we saw in the last few weeks, others who’ve come in and scored very important goals for us. A lot is coming together.”
Marius Wolf thought he’d made it 2-0 with a powerful strike inside the near post, but the goal was chalked off for an apparent foul by Nico Schlotterbeck on Ihlas Bebou.
Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel denied Andrej Kramaric from the resulting free kick but Hoffenheim kept up its pressure to the end.
“In the past we often lost such games, so from that point of view it’s a positive development,” Brandt said. “Nevertheless, it’s a very, very, very strong moment, what we’ve delivered in the past few weeks. And we have to keep going.”
It was American coach Pellegrino Matarazzo’s third consecutive defeat since taking over at Hoffenheim.
SCHALKE AND HERTHA CELEBRATE
Schalke and Hertha Berlin enjoyed morale-boosting victories in their battles against relegation.
Last-placed Schalke defeated Stuttgart 2-1 at home for its first win since November and third of the season.
Dominick Drexler got the home team off the mark in the 10th and Marius Bülter produced a wonderful finish for the second goal.
Borna Sosa capitalized on a mistake from goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann to pull one back midway through the second half, but Schalke managed to survive a nervy finish. The Gelsenkirchen-based team drew its previous four games, all 0-0.
Hertha climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Augsburg in snowy conditions in the capital.
Florian Niederlechner started against his former team for Hertha, which reportedly had to pay Augsburg more money for the privilege following his winter transfer between the clubs.
Marco Richter broke the deadlock with a shot from distance in the 61st, and nine minutes later Dodi Lukebakio sealed what was only Hertha’s fifth win of the season.
Also, Leipzig held on to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1, Cologne lost at home to Wolfsburg 2-0, and Werder Bremen enjoyed a 3-0 win over Bochum.
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