Munich - If you thought Borussia Mönchengladbach had pulled up lame ahead of the final few Bundesliga furlongs, think again.
The Foals battled over the finish line against Borussia Dortmund last time out, throwing their names right back into the eight-strong hat of European contenders by virtue of a morale-boosting 2-1 win at Signal Iduna Park.
Success in the 'Battle of the Borussias' could hardly have come at a better time for Gladbach. A nine-game winless streak saw them go into Matchday 25 displaying the kind of form that plunged them into the depths of the relegation mire in 2010/11, before Swiss liberator Lucien Favre helped steer the Rhinelanders to safety by way of a play-off win over VfL Bochum.
By and large, it's been a case of onwards and upwards ever since, with 2013/14 - the first half at least - looking every bit the potential highpoint of said gallop after a run of ten wins from 17 propelled them to third in the standings going into the winter break. Gladbach, though, had failed to win either of their last two games of the Hinrunde and continued their winless run long after coming out of their perennial hibernation at the start of 2014.
The race is on
"We're extremely relieved to have won at last," explained Belgian defender Filip Daems after helping his side break their duck last weekend. "It was a real battle. Being a man down against Dortmund when you're ahead, you know they're going to pile the pressure on. They had five forwards on the field in the end and kept sending high balls into the area, but we dug deep, fought hard and also had a bit of luck. All that matters now is the next game against Hertha Berlin."
In returning to the winning saddle, Gladbach sent out a timely reminder to their Bundesliga rivals that they are as much a part of the European race as the rest of them, Germany's capital club very much included. The seventh-placed Foals are now three points clear of Hertha, only one worse off than VfL Wolfsburg in sixth, and five behind fourth-in-the-table Bayer 04 Leverkusen with games against top-six incumbents 1. FSV Mainz 05, FC Schalke 04 and Wolfsburg still to come.
'Turn things up a notch'
"Winning against a quality team like Dortmund sets us up nicely for the upcoming fixtures," Gladbach leading scorer Raffael told the club's website. "We were all really happy after the game. I think you could tell that by our reactions. It preys on your mind when you haven't won for nine games. After beating Dortmund, we really want to turn things up a notch against Hertha."
Fans at Borussia Park have not seen one of their own score as many Bundesliga goals (13) at this stage of a season since Dortmund's Marco Reus helped fire Gladbach to a top-four finish in 2011/12, but if Raffael maintains his purple patch, the Foals might well be kicking down the stable doors to the homes of some of Europe's finest stallions next autumn.
Check out this audacious effort against Dortmund from Gladbach's Max Kruse courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel.