Brandt scores with back to send Dortmund top in Bundesliga
BERLIN (AP) — Julian Brandt scored with his back and Borussia Dortmund held on to move top of the Bundesliga with a 1-0 win at Hoffenheim 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 that the ball skimmed off his back and in after 43 minutes.
Hoffenheim might have had a penalty early in the second half, when referee Martin Petersen awarded a free kick for an apparent foul by Emre Can on Kevin Akpoguma, then looked at replays to see if it was inside the penalty area. After checking, however, he decided it wasn’t a foul.
The next VAR decision went against Dortmund. 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.
Gregor Kobel denied Andrej Kramaric from the resultant free kick but Hoffenheim kept up its pressure to the end.
It was American coach Pellegrino Matarazzo's third consecutive defeat since taking over at Hoffenheim.
Also Saturday, Hertha Berlin 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, nine minutes before Dodi Lukebakio sealed what was only Hertha’s fifth win of the season.
Leipzig held on to beat Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1, Cologne lost 2-0 at home to Wolfsburg, and Werder Bremen enjoyed a 3-0 win over Bochum.
Schalke was hosting Stuttgart in the late game.
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Ciarán Fahey, The Associated Press