Christian Pulisic and Shinji Kagawa connect late for Dortmund winner
Hundreds of litres of beer erupted from the Yellow Wall at the Westfalenstadion as Christian Pulisic scored the 2-1 winner in the 89th minute against Hoffenheim. The 19-year-old was played in on goal by Shinji Kagawa and used the bounce of the ball to chip the keeper with his right foot and to finish with the left in one silky, free-flowing move.
Borussia Dortmund secured their second consecutive win since the appointment of Peter Stoger on Saturday night, cutting down the margin to second-placed Schalke to two points while leapfrogging Hoffenheim in the table in the last Bundesliga match of 2017.
It required an industrious shift by the hosts in the second half after Mark Uth put the visitors in front after 21 minutes, punishing a passive Dortmund side. Shortly after the hour-mark, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotted home a penalty to equalise before Pulisic turned one point into three at the death of the game.
Dortmund will be pleased that despite an eight-game winless streak, they won't finish the first half of the season more than three points off second-place and keep very much in touch with the desired Champions League spots.
It was not a great performance by the Black and Yellows but in their situation, only results count and they had the necessary fortune to pull it off. Right-back Jeremy Toljan told BVB Total after the match that this come-from-behind victory counts as another big boost for morale. Dortmund were frenetic in the opening 20 minutes, forcing turnovers in promising positions that should have led to goals.
Hoffenheim took over after taking the lead, being more composed in possession. Yet, Dortmund deserve credit for wrestling back control as the game progressed. Just like in Tuesday's 2-0 win over Mainz, Stoger's side had the energy to push on until the last minute despite only making one substitution before stoppage time -- an observation that should be very standard but was not under Peter Bosz.
Dortmund can take a lot of heart from their determination to win the match and take that belief into Wednesday's cup tie away to Bayern Munich to round off an eventful 2017.
BVB can be happy to keep the visitors down to one goal.Though, the Black and Yellows are still far from perfect and have more work to do in their defensive organisation. Despite Stoger's "defence first" approach, not all of BVB's players defend with the necessary grit. Andriy Yarmolenko and Raphael Guerreiro once again posed as especially bad examples when it comes to defensive contributions. In some instances, the hosts were lucky that Julian Nagelsmann's side did not make more out of the spaces offered.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Although Dortmund looked very patchy at times, improvements are visible. Bringing on Mahmoud Dahoud after 72 minutes and shifting Christian Pulisic to the right wing was the right move by Stoger.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- Only made on stop but was tidy in the box to pick balls out of the air.
DF Jeremy Toljan, 6 -- It had been a while since Dortmund saw solid back-to-back performances in a row but Toljan has done it.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 5 -- Lifted the offside trap together with Toljan ahead of Hoffenheim's goal but showed fewer errors in his positioning afterwards.
DF Omer Toprak, 6 -- Lost his marker twice in the match but it went unpunished. Otherwise had to make up for Schmelzer's bad day at the office.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 4 -- After being one of the best Dortmund players in previous games, Hoffenheim's cheekiness proved too much for Schmelzer on Saturday.
MF Julian Weigl, 6 -- His movements and passes on the ball made a lot of things happen in a good way. His movements off the ball, however, often left a lot to be desired.
MF Raphael Guerreiro, 5 -- Like a child crossing the street, unaware of danger looming by approaching cars, Guerreiro too often failed to detect dangerous spaces that he had to cover or to put pressure on opponents.
MF Shinji Kagawa, 8 -- Won a penalty and assisted the winner. Kagawa was terrific on the night, showing his playmaking skills and high footballing IQ with a lot of composure while turning into a pressing monster off the ball.
FW Christian Pulisic, 7 -- Christian "Clutch" Pulisic pulled some specials skills out of the bag when it mattered the most. Otherwise, he spent his time on the field skipping past Hoffenheim defenders.
FW Andriy Yarmolenko, 4 -- Played the pass first-time with his right foot to Kagawa that won the penalty in the 63rd minute but measured by the opportunities that fell to the Ukraine international it was a highly frustrating night. His shady defensive contributions only added to that feeling.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 6 -- A big smile flashed across Aubameyang's face after he blocked a kick of goalkeeper Oliver Baumann. His header from five yards out went parallel to the goalline instead of over it. At that point, it did not matter anymore. His penalty was well-taken but he could have been more forceful when tracking back.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, NR -- Was brought on for a tired Yarmolenko in the 73rd minute. In the 89th minute, Dahoud took the ball from the left side into midfield, turned toward goal and played the ball toward Kagawa just when he had drawn two Hoffenheim players out of position. A sly move that created the entire momentum for BVB's winner.
MF Neven Subotic, NR -- The obligatory stoppage-time substitute to take a few more seconds off the clock.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.