Borussia Dortmund took a two-goal lead in the first half and hung on for a nervous 2-1 victory over RB Leipzig on Friday to go top of the Bundesliga and stretch its perfect run in 2023 to eighth straight league wins.
A Marco Reus penalty and a deflected shot from Emre Can in the first half put Dortmund in the driving seat before Leipzig pulled a goal back through Emil Forsberg late in the second half.
The Ruhr valley club, who travel to Chelsea on Tuesday for its Champions League last 16 second leg leading 1-0, were brutally efficient, scoring twice with just three shots on goal in the entire game.
Dortmund, with 10 wins from their 10 matches in all competitions in 2023, is now on 49 points, three points clear of second-placed Bayern Munich, in action against VfB Stuttgart on Saturday while Leipzig’s second defeat in four league games sees it stuck in fourth place on 42.
“We are very, very happy,” said scorer Reus. “We had to tremble until the end but I prefer to win than to play well and lose.
“It was our big wish to take over the lead in the Bundesliga and keep putting pressure.”
Yet it was the host who was on the backfoot at the start, and it was lucky not to fall behind after Leipzig’s fit-again Christopher Nkunku, in his first start since November, failed to convert two early chances.
Dortmund struck against the run of play in the 21st minute when Reus was brought down by keeper Janis Blaswich in the box and the Dortmund captain stepped up to drill in the penalty and move into second place on the club’s all-time scorers’ list with his 159th goal.
It added another before the break when Emre Can’s shot from 20 metres took a slight deflection in the 39th but stepped off the gas after the break, handing control to Leipzig once more.
The Bulls earned a deserved goal when Forsberg slid in at the far post in the 74th but despite a flurry of late chances with Timo Werner and Forsberg they could not find an equaliser.
“It was a real top match tonight,” said Forsberg. “Unfortunately it was not enough for us in the end and that is bitter.
“But we have to keep our heads up as there are still a lot of great matches in front of us.”
Leipzig faces Manchester City in its own Champions League last 16 return leg on March 14 after its 1-1 draw in Germany last week.