Borussia Dortmund closed the gap at the top of the Bundesliga table to four points as Axel Witsel scored late to hand the visitors a crucial 1-0 win at Mainz.
Mainz’s physical approach looked like it would pay off and that they would extend their unbeaten home record to nine matches, but Witsel’s finish proved the difference, keeping Dortmund in the title race.
It was an attritional first half in front of 25,000 fans inside Mewa Arena with Mainz not afraid to impose themselves physically.
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Four yellow cards were issued, 13 fouls were committed and Dortmund produced one shot on target which was comfortably saved by Robin Zentner, who claimed Thorgan Hazard’s tame strike from a tight angle in the 22nd minute.
Dortmund looked more lively in attack when Erling Haaland was introduced in the 55th minute and one of their best chances fell to the Norwegian 14 minutes later, but his half-volley towards the bottom corner was excellently parried away by Zentner.
Marco Rose’s side continued to pressure and finally found the breakthrough goal late on. Witsel met Giovanni Reyna’s free-kick at the far post and scuffed his shot into the bottom corner for his first goal of the season.
Substitute Julian Brandt fired just wide from close range in added time while Reyna forced Zentner into a smart save from a free-kick moments later, but it did not matter in the end as Dortmund saw out an important victory.


It looked like Dortmund would be unable to find a goal they were desperately seeking as Mainz did a great job of stopping the visitors from getting into any kind of rhythm.
Witsel's goal at the back post will have likely annoyed Mainz's highly-rated coach Bo Svensson as he was virtually unmarked as he bundled the ball into the net.
It was not a pretty performance from Dortmund, but the result could prove vital in the Bundesliga title race with eight games of the season to go.


The Dortmund winger was one of the few players for the visitors who looked keen to take the game to Mainz. The 28-year-old showcasewd his fine technical ability, weaving his way past a handful of defenders on more than one occasion.


Mainz: Zentner (6), Widmer (5), Bell (4), Niakhate (5), Tauer (5), Stach (6), Stoger (6), Lucoqui (6), Burkhardt (6), Ingvartsen (5), Onisiwo (5)
Subs: Papela (6), Boetius (5), Brosinski (N/A)
Borussia Dortmund: Kobel (7), Passlack (6), Can (7), Pongracic (6), Schulz (6), Dahoud (6), Witsel (7), Wolf (5), Bellingham (6), Hazard (7), Malen (5)
Subs: Haaland (6), Reyna (7), Brandt (6)


50' - SO CLOSE FROM STACH! A Mainz corner is passed straight out to Stach on the edge of the box and he fires a sidefooted effort on goal which veers just wide!
69' - GREAT SAVE BY ZENTNER! Haaland has his first shot on goal. Schulz's cross finds Haaland and he half volleys a shot on goal looking for the bottom corner, forcing Zentner to parry away! That is as close as we have come to a goal in this game.
73' - HAZARD COMES CLOSE! Witsel is brought down and Dortmund have a free-kick just outside the Mainz box. Hazard will take it. He looks for the top corner with his effort but he curls his strike just over!
87' - GOAL! WITSEL FINDS THE BREAKTHROUGH GOAL! A free-kick swung into the box is met by Witsel who is free at the far post. His scuffed effort bounces off the turf and into the corner of the net! Dortmund finally break the deadlock through his first league goal of the season!


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