Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s fine second-half goal ensured Borussia Dortmund returned to winning ways in the Bundesliga with a 1-0 victory over bottom club Hannover.
Dortmund were held to a goalless draw at Hertha Berlin last weekend and, as star forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked on from the stands nursing a minor injury, Thomas Tuchel’s men endured a similar story of frustration for the best part of an hour at Signal Iduna Park on Saturday.
Marco Reus was denied by the crossbar and Hannover goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler produced in an assured performance, but he was not overly extended as Thomas Schaaf’s struggling visitors displayed ample discipline to offset their lack of attacking ambition.
Hannover, who are now six points shy of Werder Bremen in the relegation play-off spot, were relatively comfortable until Mkhitaryan turned on the style to register his eighth Bundesliga goal of the season with a 57th-minute solo effort.
Dortmund were unable to add gloss to the scoreline but they are back to within five points of Bayern Munich ahead of the leaders’ Sunday trip to Augsburg.
Shouldering the bulk of Dortmund’s attacking responsibility in Aubameyang’s absence, Reus almost put the hosts in front after nine minutes when he connected with Lukasz Piszczek’s delightfully clipped low cross.
Zieler saved superbly on that occasion but he was helpless when fellow Germany international Reus rattled the crossbar with a 16th-minute free-kick.
Hannover might have taken a shock lead 10 minutes before half-time but Hiroki Sakai’s cutback, after the full-back charged beyond Marcel Schmelzer, evaded the well-placed Uffe Bech.
Schmelzer almost atoned for that piece of slack defending with a spectacular volley from close to the left byline that Zieler tipped over, while Neven Subotic blasted wastefully off-target from the resulting corner.
Zieler was then down sharply to keep out a curling effort from Ilkay Gundogan to ensure Hannover went in at half-time on level terms. Gundogan went for elevation eight minutes into the second half but fired over after Mkhitaryan shuffled past a pair of challenges.
The Armenian elected to go it alone shortly afterwards and that resulted in the deadlock being broken in spectacular fashion.
Collecting Reus’ pass on the halfway line, Mkhitaryan drove confidently towards a backpedalling Hannover defence, darted in-field and sent a 25-yard effort arrowing beyond Zieler’s dive.
Schaaf’s side were unable to mount a counter-assault of any substance and, by the time Zieler resumed his personal duel with Reus in the 74th minute, they appeared to have accepted a seventh consecutive Bundesliga loss as Dortmund eased home.
Key Opta stats:
– Dortmund have won 28 points in their 10 home matches this season – a new club record.
– BVB have scored in 20 of their 21 games this Bundesliga season. Every other team has failed to score at least twice.
– Henrikh Mkhitaryan has scored 18 goals in all competitions this season, in 33 games. In his first two seasons at Dortmund he has scored 18 goals in 88 games.
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