BUNDESLIGA

Dortmund survive derby test and stay on title course

Dortmund survive derby test and stay on title course

PATRIK STOLLARZ

AFP

Schalke gave everything against Borussia Dortmund but their Ruhr rivals emerged unscathed and with their title chances enhanced.

His Borussia Dortmund team-mates and their fans celebrated wildly but teenager Jadon Sancho was more muted in reacting to his late winning goal against Schalke on Saturday.

"The goal means everything to my family," Sancho told bundesliga.com. "Sadly my grandmother passed away, so that goal was for her. I’m glad that I got the goal and helped the team to get three points."

Dortmund's midfielder Jadon Sancho

In theory, a single three points makes little difference over the course of the 34-game Bundesliga season but some are undoubtedly more important than others.

After 74 minutes in Gelsenkirchen, Dortmund were labouring at 1-1 against their local arch-rivals and in danger of losing some of their lead at the top of the Bundesliga.

But youngster Sancho delivered when it mattered. Dortmund remain nine points clear of champions Bayern Munich and will be at least seven points ahead of their closest challenger at the end of the weekend.

"It was a very difficult week for him," Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said. "He’s 18, and lost his grandmother. He only flew back from London on Friday, but he really wanted to train and play."

Dortmund's victory was their first over Schalke in five years and keeps them unbeaten in a remarkable start to the Bundesliga.

When they play well, they are sharp, dynamic and few teams in the league can live with them.

When they play badly, they somehow find a way to get a result. Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen, Augsburg, Bayern and Schalke have all tested them severely - yet Dortmund still emerged with 13 points from this group of games.

It is an attribute often found in eventual title winners.

Dortmund's players react after the German first division Bundesliga football match Schalke 04 vs Borussia Dortmund

"The mentality is right," goalkeeper Roman Buerki said. "We have lost a lot of 50-50 games last season."

Midfielder Thomas Delaney headed an early opener but Dortmund could not make the game safe. Daniel Caligiuri's penalty around hour-mark threw everything open again.

"We continued to play football and played even better, we had more possession and more goalscoring chances," said Favre. "It was important that we kept our cool. We ultimately deserved to win the game. We had more possession, more opportunities to score, but it's always difficult to play against such teams."

Dortmund next face Monaco midweek in the Champions League before hosting Werder Bremen, with the chance to clinch the dubious honour of being 'autumn champions'.

Few Bundesliga teams take that designation seriously but the autumn champions end up celebrating properly in May more often than not - about two-thirds build on their strong start to win the championship.

Title talk is still being kept quiet, however, with Dortmund instead focussing on the immediate challenges.

"We are trying everything to stay top and then start the second half of the season with a good feeling," said Buerki.

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