Borussia Dortmund were without Marcel Schmelzer, Ilkay Gündogan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang yet still beat Augsburg with a bit to spare. Thomas Tuchel's side have now gone undefeated in 10 league games.
Augsburg 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
(Finnbogason 16' - Mkhitaryan 45', Castro 69', Ramos 75')
Borussia Dortmund extended their unbeaten run in the Bundesliga to 10 games on Sunday night with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Augsburg. Their lead over third-placed Hertha Berlin now stands at 16 points.
Thomas Tuchel knew he would be without injured duo Ilkay Gündogan and Marcel Schmelzer when his side travelled to Bavaria but had to make adjustments to his lineup when star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang withdrew from the squad following the death of his grandfather.
Against an Augsburg side that had won just two of their last 10 league games, Tuchel called on a number of reserve players to complement stars like Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and the impressive Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Despite the form guide, the home side opened the scoring just 16 minutes in to the game. Towering striker Francisco Caiuby beat Lukasz Piszczek to a through ball, before cutting it back across goal for Alfred Finnbogason to tap home his third Bundesliga goal in just eight league appearances for Augsburg.
Dortmund naturally responded to the setback and marched back up the pitch searching for an equalizer. Yet without regular goalscorer Aubameyang to lead the line there was a notable lack of bite to the visitors' play.
Indeed his replacement, Adrian Ramos, offered noticeably less than the Gabonese international early in the game and often found himself losing the ball or hopelessly out of position. Fortunately for Dortmund, the Colombian wasn't even in the box for Dortmund's equalizer just before the break.
Picking up the ball deep in the Augsburg half, Henrikh Mkhitaryan evaded the attention of two markers by nutmegging one and dancing past the other. He then glided through the Augsburg box with some fancy footwork and passing from Marco Reus and Nuri Sahin, before tapping the ball home with an outstretched leg and the help of a deflection. A 45-minute period of frustration had come to an end for Dortmund thanks to their Armenian star.
The goal was the 40th time Mkhitaryan had either scored or assisted on a goal for the Bundesliga side in 43 games this season: just one more to add to what has undoubtedly been his best campaign yet for the Westfalenstadion side.
Tuchel's side were faced with another hurdle at halftime when Reus was taken off for Gonzalo Castro, offering even fewer key players for the former German champions to rely upon.
The second half started much like the first, with Dortmund pressing for a goal and Augsburg threatening on the break. The first real chance landed at Ramos' feet following a break and perfectly weighted cross from Mkhitaryan in the 60th minute. The striker failed to tap the ball in to a largely open goal from the back post. It seemed that if Dortmund were going to win this game it would be in spite of their backup striker.
Yet 10 minutes later the forward redeemed himself when he plucked a high ball out of the air with the deftest of touches on his chest in the middle of the opponent's box, to then lay off a pass for Castro to knock in to the back of the net with some much-needed composure. Dortmund had finally taken the lead through two players who have spent much of the season warming the bench.
Just five minutes after that Ramos added insult to injury for the hosts when he latched onto a corner and directed a strong header towards goal. Goalkeeper Alex Manninger did well to parry the ball but the Dortmund striker pounced on the rebound with a tidy finish.
More unfamiliar faces populated Tuchel's side as the game went on, with Moritz Leitner and 17-year-old Felix Passlack taking their place against a home side that had accepted defeat despite a promising start.
Sunday's match may have just been another three points in a title race that has long since reached its conclusion but Tuchel couldn't hide his delight as he walked onto the pitch at full time. He had needed his backup players on the day and they hadn't let him down.