Borussia Dortmund took a comfortable situation and made it more difficult as a blistering first half was followed by a wayward second. In the end though, they got the win and return to top of the Bundesliga.
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Mainz
(Sancho 18', 23' - Quaison 83')
Borussia Dortmund's Jekyll and Hyde act continued on Matchday 29 as they showed their best and worst sides in a dramatic win over Mainz that sees them return to top of the Bundesliga for at least one night.
After a slow start, Dortmund burst into life scoring two goals in five minutes. Firstly, Marius Wolf played a superb long ball into Mario Götze's path. Götze, who had another outstanding game, chested the ball down and whipped a perfectly-placed cross into the path of Jadon Sancho. The Englishman sent the ball crashing into the net, and did the same minutes later when he met a Thomas Delaney cutback.
Sandro Schwarz admitted his side were a bit too passive in the first half, although right before the break there were signs of life when Karim Onisiwo just flicked an effort wide.
The same man hit the post after the hour mark when he slipped in behind a Dortmund defense that started to wobble as the final 15 minutes arrived. Suddenly Dortmund's attack was nonexistent and their defense was panicky. With six minutes to go, Robin Quaison was in the right place at the right time to convert Mainz's pressure into a goal, as Dortmund failed to clear a corner.
"Outstanding," Schwarz said of his team afterwards. "We did everything you need to play football. It's frustrating that we didn't get a point."
The reason they didn't was Roman Bürki. The Dortmund keeper made a special treble save to keep Mainz out as he denied sub Anthony Ujah, then palmed out the rebound and then clawed away Ujah's second effort to stop it trickling over the line.
"At 2-1 down, we looked anxious," Bürki said. "The last 15, 20 minutes, our backs were against the wall in our stadium. But we won," Bürki added, astutely.
For all their failings in the second half, Dortmund did what was required of them. Three more points puts the ball back in Bayern Munich's court, and keeps the Bundesliga title race as exciting as ever.
As it happened:
Dortmund take a comfortable game and make it dramatic! In the end, two goals from Jadon Sancho are enough to get them over the line and back at the top of the Bundesliga. A win of desire and determination if there ever was one.
90+2' Dortmund clearing the ball desperately. Bürki saves in front of Ujah again.
89' Götze makes way for Toprak. Just stoppage time left. Dortmund have four minutes to survive, or the title might be gone.
87' CHANCE! I don't believe it. Roman Bürki has just made a triple save. And somehow Dortmund are still ahead. A corner comes in, Ujah gets a flick but Bürki keeps it out with a chest. The rebound is pushed goalwards but Bürki gets a hand to it, and then, on the floor, Bürki keeps Ujah's second effort out as it trickles over - but not fully - the goal line! Remarkable scenes.
84' GOAL! Mainz get one back (Quaison)! Dortmund never scored that third and have paid for it. A corner comes in, Bürki saves the header superbly, but the rebound is lashed back towards goal, it's cleared, but Robin Quaison is on hand to have the ball bounce off him and in. Mainz are back in it! And Dortmund have let them get back into it!
80' CHANCE! Reus sweeps a shot wide after more good work by Sancho. That's a first. Mainz are flirting with danger, but they have to.
78' Weigl hacks it clear. Mainz come again. Gbamin tries to get space to shoot, but can't. Zagadou is on for Wolf. Dortmund trying to tighten up.
74' Mainz are going for it! A long-range effort is palmed away by Bürki. Dortmund are in a battle.
62' POST! Onisiwo slips in behind Dortmund's defense, gets to the ball just before Bürki and pokes it goalwards but it clatters the post! The rebound falls to Bürki, but he spills it but no Mainz player is close so he claims it comfortably. What a chance! Dortmund are playing with fire a bit here. It remains a bit end-to-end. The next goal really is decisive.
58' Dortmund's pace is off a bit, although they are trying to break regularly. Probably a bit tired, which seems fair. Götze is having a stormer though, shielding the ball, covering all sorts of ground. Mainz happy to clear their lines though, which means they haven't really taken advantage of Dortmund's tiredness. Schwarz is driving his side onwards though. Bruun Larsen has been great, but the final ball or pass has not been there.
52' Entertaining start to the second half. Dortmund test Müller after some smart interplay. You get the feeling that one more goal ends the contest here. Mateta tests Bürki, but the keeper is comfortable to it. Open game at the moment. Next goal will decide how it pans out...
46' Dortmund get us restarted. Baku is on for Mainz, replacing Kunde, who seem to have moved to a back four in the process.
Dortmund were not straight out of the blocks, but two beautiful moves ended in two goals for Jadon Sancho that give Dortmund, ultimately, a deserved lead. Just before the break, Mainz showed some signs of life but they have a lot of work to do to come back from here.
43' CHANCE! After that Dortmund attack, Mainz come back with Mateta down the left. He delivers a perfect pass in to the on-rushing Onisiwo who somehow times his spin perfectly to catch the ball with the inside of his boot but it spins just wide. A wonder goal if it goes in. A goal that breaks the Internet if scored by Messi or Ronaldo. But it didn't go in and so the chance disappears into the history of chances in football games.
41' Mini Mainz resurgence here towards the end of the first half. Kunde swings in a free kick from the left after Götze makes a clumsy challenge. Before the kick, Mateta is booked for flinging an arm towards Wolf. Silly. When the ball does come in, Dortmund deal with it.
36' Reus drills a ball down the line for Witsel. The Belgian takes it in his stride and plays in Götze first time but his teammate wasn't expecting it and so the ball ends up in the middle of nowhere. One moment of trust away from another chance, I think. Sandro Schwarz will be having words with his team. Dortmund are good, have talented players, but Mainz have at times invited their hosts into a lot space.
30' Now we enter this strange phase of the game where Mainz now they need to respond and Dortmund know they're comfortable. Mainz try to come forward and realize that role, but Dortmund quickly win back the ball. Witsel drives them forward, lays it off to Götze on the left. Götze whips in a great pass through Mainz three players and Bruun Larsen gets a yard to shoot after dropping his shoulder but the Dane drags it wide. Nearly a third... Mainz will have to do a lot more to even stem the tide here.
23' GOAL! 2-0 Dortmund (Sancho) I was just about to write that Sancho had swapped wings down the right but Mainz were largely handling it. That was until Thomas Delaney burst down the left and pulled back a perfect low cross for Sancho, who stroked the ball home via a deflection. Neither goal has been cleanly taken by Sancho, but he won't care. He has two today, 10 this season and it looks like Dortmund are going back to the top of the table.
18' GOAL! 1-0 Dortmund (Sancho) Just gorgeous football! A superb ball into Götze down the right, allows him to chest it down and then whip a perfect pass that curls directly into Sancho's path. The 19-year-old side-foots his ninth goal of the season through Müller and Dortmund are ahead. Just beautiful from start to finish.
14' CHANCE! Oh Sancho! The Englishman adds another clip to an already mind-blowing highlight reel as he clips the perfect pass for Bruun Larsen to run on to. The Dane gets to it but Florian Müller palms it away strongly. Good pass, good shot, good save. Well done all round.
11' Bruun Larsen fires over from a long way out after the aforementioned Witsel and Götze do the aforementioned actions in perfect combination. Mainz standing firm. Aaron Martin at left back looks as good as he has all season, on loan from Espanyol.
9' Witsel is buzzing around, mopping up the ball whenever he can. Bruun Larsen is full of running, Götze armed with plenty of neat touches, but that final run and pass remains largely elusive.
6' POST! Götze delivers a dangerous, bouncing cross that comes of Latza and spins off the far post and wide. From the corner, Delaney gets a firm header goalwards but it's straight at Müller. Dortmund move into second gear.
3' Dortmund haven't flown out of the blocks. More of the ball, as expected, but the usual Favre patience is clear to see.
1' Off we go!
18:25 After a healthy rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone", the teams are heading out of the tunnel and we are nearly ready to go.
18:12 Sebastian Kehl, speaking before the game, says that it is still only one point that separates them and Bayern Munich. He's right, and it's probably exactly the right thing to say after last weekend's hammering. Lucien Favre is under pressure to get things right having perhaps overcomplicated things against Bayern.
17:30 TEAMS! Marco Reus, Mario Götze and Jadon Sancho lead Dortmund tonight. Götze leads the line, with Reus likely in the 10. Defensively, Marius Wolf's resurrection as a right wing back continues with Julian Weigl slotting into the center and Abdou Diallo moving to the left. The club confirm that Christian Pulisic and Raphael Guerreiro are still recovering from injuries and so aren't in the squad today (Paco Alcacer makes the bench).
Looks like Mainz are gonig with a 4-3-3. Gbamin and Kunde have often been excellent in midfield this season, and 10 goal Mateta is one to watch although he needs a few more chances to score his goals. Ridle Baku is on the bench and other than him I'd be tempted to say this is the best eleven Sandro Schwarz can field right now.
Dortmund XI: Bürki - Diallo, Akanji, Weigl, Wolf - Delaney, Witsel - Bruun Larsen, Reus, Sancho - Götze
Mainz XI: Müller - Donati, Hack, Niakhate, Aaron - Gbamin, Latza, Kunde - Onisiwo, Mateta, Boetius
17:27 A weather update over here in Germany. It's mid April, and it's snowing. Yes. You read that right.
17:16 It's true that fans travel from all over to watch Dortmund. This isn't that far, but it's still impressive.
16:20 Here's one for you. Ten years ago, Mario Götze made his Bundesliga. The opposition? Mainz, of course. A decade eh? Where has the time gone?
15:42 That being said, Mainz won 5-0 last weekend despite all the possession and shot statistics being in favor of their opponents (Freiburg). And there's this...
15:15 If Dortmund could face anyone today, then it would probably be Mainz. Their record speaks for itself.
14:45 Good afternoon! It's not an easy time to be a Dortmund fan, is it? Relatively speaking, it could be so much worse, as a Stuttgart or Schalke fan would tell you but to be in a title race you never expected to be in, knowing that it might be the last chance you have to win for a while is not easy. Today Lucien Favre's men host Mainz, knowing victory would put them back on top of the Bundesliga at least for a day (Bayern are in Düsseldorf tomorrow). Kick off in Dortmund is at 1830 CEST. Teams expected an hour before then, but there'll be news all afternoon to keep you updated with so stay tuned!