Picking up 51 points from a possible 66 is title-winning form, but despite grinding out a 1-0 win at third-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Sunday, Borussia Dortmund still .
Winning at the BayArena was something leaders Bayern failed to do a fortnight ago, but BVB managed to grind out the type of victory that many claim 'win titles'. It was not easy on the eye, but it ended in a triumph which moved Thomas Tuchel’s side .
"We knew it would be a tough match," said Tuchel, whose side are unbeaten in 2016, picking up six wins from a possible seven. "We know that Leverkusen have their own, very intense, playing style." In a bid to try and combat Die Werkself’s approach, Tuchel made five changes to his team in order to have "players that were fresh" on the pitch, including young American attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic.
Things are moving quickly for the 17-year-old, who, having come off the bench against FC Ingolstadt 04 to become the eighth-youngest debutant in the league’s history, was delighted to have been handed his first start in Leverkusen. "Obviously it's a big honour for me," said Pulisic. "I was ready for this."
The American was brought off for Marco Reus at half-time, but the youngster was not too downhearted by the substitution. "The coach made a decision that he thought was the best for the team and it's obviously worked because we scored a really nice goal," he said. "I'm excited for the future. I'm just happy to be a part of this great team."
Though separated by 12 points coming into the encounter, there was little to choose between the two sides on the pitch during the first half. "We had good structure off the ball, but on the ball it wasn't that easy for us to find space and we had our problems,” said head coach Thomas Tuchel, whose introduction of Reus certainly played its part in opening the game up after the break.
"We were dominant in the second half up until we scored the opener, which I felt was fully deserved," continued Tuchel. "Then there was the break in play and after that Leverkusen came out with a lot of energy and emotion and I was delighted that we were able to defend against it."
Whoa-bameyang does it again
While BVB’s defending had to be resolute in the closing stages, they had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to thank for securing the victory. Dortmund’s top goalscorer did not have an easy time against Jonathan Tah, Ömer Toprak and the latter's second-half replacement Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who all put up strong opposition to his efforts both on and off the ball.
However, 'Auba' once again proved how important he is to this side by taking the second of his two clear-cut chances at the BayArena. It is the fifth time this season the Gabon international has been Dortmund’s sole goalscorer in an encounter, but only the second time, along with the Matchday 19 win over FC Ingolstadt 04, that it has resulted in victory.
Dortmund take on FC Porto in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday, but with Der Klassiker at home to a depleted FC Bayern side just 12 days away and form very much on their side, there could yet be life left in the title race.
bundesliga.com's James Thorogood reporting from Leverkusen.