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Witsel winner keeps Dortmund six points clear in Bundesliga

Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund restored their six-point lead over Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday as Axel Witsel netted in their 1-0 away win at fourth-placed RB Leipzig.

Second-placed Bayern, the defending champions, had trimmed Dortmund’s lead to three points on Friday with an impressive 3-1 win at Hoffenheim as Leon Goretzka scored two superb first-half goals.

Leipzig suffered their first home league defeat this season and Dortmund’s victory was all the more impressive without captain and playmaker Marco Reus, who twisted an ankle in training on Friday. 

On the first weekend of the Bundesliga after the winter break, Dortmund claimed the winner on 19 minutes when the ball fell to Witsel from a corner and the Belgium midfielder reacted fastest, firing home off the underside of the crossbar.

Dortmund created chances after the break as England winger Jadon Sancho and Maximilian Philipp, Reus’ replacement, both got in behind the Leipzig defence, but failed to convert.

At the other end, Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Buerki twice denied Leipzig forwards Timo Werner and Marcel Sabitzer as the hosts pushed for an equaliser.

Paco Alcacer, Dortmund’s top scorer with 12 league goals, had an effort ruled out for offside and smacked the crossbar with another shot when he came on for the final, nervy 10 minutes.

– Gladbach stay in touch –

Earlier Saturday, Borussia Moenchengladbach kept pace with Dortmund and Bayern in the title race as Alassane Plea scored in their 1-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen.

Gladbach breached Leverkusen’s defence when captain Lars Stindl split the defence with a superb pass before Plea fired home his tenth goal this season eight minutes before the break.

Leverkusen had second-half chances as their Germany teenage international Kai Havertz fired wide, Karim Bellarabi hit the post and Jamaica winger Leon Bailey had a penalty appeal turned down.

Plea, 25, has been a revelation on the road for Gladbach since joining from Nice last July with eight of his league goals so far having been scored away from home.

The away win leaves Gladbach three points behind Bayern and nine adrift of Dortmund.

Elsewhere, Eintracht Frankfurt climbed to fifth, a point from the Champions League berths, with a 3-1 win at home to Freiburg as striker Luka Jovic claimed his 13th goal this season to become the league’s top-scorer.

A header by Sebastian Haller gave Frankfurt the lead on 34 minutes before the hosts pulled away with two superb goals.

– Jovic is top-scorer –

Croatia forward Ante Rebic beat three defenders with a dramatic change of direction, which created space to curl his shot into the goal on 40 minutes.

Jovic, who scored five goals in one league game in October, added Frankfurt’s third just before the break before Nils Petersen pulled a goal back from Freiburg in the second half.

Werder Bremen climbed to eighth with a 1-0 win at Hanover as Kosovo striker Milot Rashica scored the winner by finishing off a move started by captain Max Kruse.

Stuttgart remain in the relegation places after a 3-2 defeat at home to Mainz.

Mainz built up a 3-0 lead with an own goal by Stuttgart defender Santiago Ascacibar before striker Jean-Philippe Mateta and defender Alexander Hack netted.

However, Stuttgart roared back with two goals in the final seven minutes from Nicolas Gonzalez and Marc Oliver Kempf before Anastasios Donis hit the post in a dramatic finish.

Fortuna Duesseldorf, who last month stunned Dortmund 2-1 and drew 3-3 at Bayern, are now six games unbeaten after a 2-1 win at Augsburg with Benito Raman scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

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