Axel Witsel strikes late to give Borussia Dortmund precious win over Mainz


Axel Witsel scored his first Bundesliga goal in over two years as Borussia Dortmund edged a pulsating encounter with Mainz on Wednesday, to stay within touching distance of leaders Bayern Munich in the title race.

Mainz 0-1 Borussia Dortmund
Goals: 0-1
Witsel (assist: Reyna) 87'

There was plenty of energy on display in a tightly contested first half, although neither side truly looked like opening the deadlock in this rearranged fixture from Matchday 25. Anton Stach might have had a goal of the season contender after bursting free and running the length of the pitch on the counter-attack, but the Mainz midfielder ran out of steam on the edge of the BVB box. Jude Bellingham and Thorgan Hazard had half-chances at the other end, but the men in yellow were lacking the menacing final-third presence of Erling Haaland, who began on the bench. Despite not playing for over two weeks and seeing less of the ball, Mainz created more openings before the break, with Kevin Stöger whipping a free-kick effort just wide of the mark.

Stach nearly had another worldie early in the second half, but fizzed his attempt inches wide of the top corner from Stöger's short corner. Silvan Widmer also tested Dortmund keeper Gregor Kobel from a tight angle, but little by little the visitors began to impose themselves, especially after Haaland joined the fray. Donyell Malen found himself with space in the Mainz area but went for power over precision, and shanked his shot out towards the corner flag. Haaland went closer, forcing a stop from Robin Zentner, before Hazard whistled a free-kick just over the bar. It looked like Mainz would hold on for a draw, but Witsel popped up late in the day with his first Bundesliga goal in over two years, converting substitute Giovanni Reyna's free-kick to move Dortmund to within four points of Bayern at the top.

Match stats

  • Witsel scored his first Bundesliga goal in 774 days, since netting against Union Berlin in February 2020.
  • Dortmund have taken 19 points from their last seven games in Mainz (W6, D1) and only dropped points in two of the last 11 visits (W9, D1, L1).
  • BVB have now kept clean sheets in four of their last five Bundesliga outings.
  • Mainz still have the best home defence in the division with only eight goals conceded in 13 games at the MEWA Arena. Next best are Bayern and Bochum with 12 each.
  • Dortmund coach Marco Rose played for Mainz between 2002 and 2010, largely under former BVB boss Jürgen Klopp.
  • Mainz were founded on 16 March 1905 (hence their nickname, the 05ers). The club was therefore celebrating its 117th birthday today.

Watch: Axel Witsel on his winning goal in Mainz


Mainz: Zentner - Tauer (Brosinski 77'), Bell, Niakhate (c) - Widmer, Stach (Papela 71'), Stöger, Lucoqui - Burkardt, Ingvartsen (Boetius 71'), Onisiwo
Unused subs: Rieß, Martin, Nebel, Shabani, Rösch
Out: Burgzorg (heart), Dahmen (ankle), Hack (suspended), Kohr (suspended), St. Juste (shoulder)
Coach: Bo Svensson

Dortmund: Kobel - Passlack, Can (c), Pongracic, Schulz - Dahoud (Reyna 69'), Witsel, Bellingham - Wolf (Haaland 57'), Malen (Brandt 69'), Hazard
Unused subs: Hitz, Maloney, Reinier, Papadopoulos
Out: Akanji (calf), Guerreiro (not included), Hummels (not included), Meunier (muscular), Morey (knee), Moukoko (hamstring), Reus (ill), Schmelzer (knee), Zagadou (thigh)
Coach: Marco Rose