Jadon Sancho returned with a goal as Borussia Dortmund bounced back from their first league defeat of the season. They cast aside second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach to extend their Bundesliga lead to nine points.
The crisis lasted just three days. Borussia Dortmund's 15-game unbeaten run in the league came to a grinding halt at lowly Fortuna Düsseldorf on Tuesday night, but they are back in charge of the Bundesliga after this closely fought victory over a revitalized Borussia Mönchengladbach. Lucien Favre's side will have at least a six-point lead during the winter break, but it could be as much as nine again, depending on how Bayern Munich respond in Frankfurt on Saturday.
Ahead of this first-versus-second contest, midfielder Axel Witsel had spoken of Dortmund's determination to bounce back following the shock defeat to Düsseldorf, a club deep in the relegation mire. Favre took no chances with his team selection this time, reinstating Jadon Sancho to the starting 11, and it was the English teenager who broke the deadlock in Dortmund a few minutes before half time. He received a pass from first half substitute Mario Götze and still had plenty to do, but no challenge is too great for Sancho, who took the long way around before firing a brilliant low shot in off the post from the tightest of angles. When Sancho eventually departed, the Dortmund faithful were chanting his name in unison; Sancho is fast-becoming a club hero.
But Gladbach didn't travel to Dortmund to roll over. Dieter Hecking was celebrating his second anniversary as coach on Friday and was able to punch the air in delight when his side leveled in first half stoppage time. There were only rare glimpses of Gladbach as an attacking force, but Christoph Kramer forced the ball home from close range, even though replays showed he'd clearly handled the ball before hammering it in. Even consultation with VAR failed to rule the goal out and Dortmund went in at half time frustrated that they weren't ahead.
A domineering start to the second half by Dortmund saw the league leaders impose themselves on the game again, and it was no surprise when they went ahead for the second time. Sancho was crucial again, driving forward and skipping into space before picking out Götze on the right wing. He fizzed a perfect low cross into the box and Marco Reus slid the ball in from close range in front of the Südtribüne. It was his 14th goal of the season, his 11th in the Bundesliga, and was another goal against the club he once represented with distinction. Reus now has seven goals and five assists against his former employers.
Gladbach are enjoying their best start to a season in 42 years, going back to an era when they dominated German football and enjoyed plenty of success on the continent, too. But they were powerless to prevent a fourth defeat of the campaign and struggled to create chances against a Dortmund side who are back in charge of the Bundesliga. The Herbstmeistern have a month off now, and will return from their winter training camp looking to ensure their 2019 is as relentless as the second half of 2018.