Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund narrowly beat RB Leipzig 1-0 on Saturday courtesy of Axel Witsel’s first half winner, to protect their six point lead over champions Bayern Munich at the restart of the German top flight following the winter break.
Dortmund were missing in-form captain Marco Reus, who suffered a ligament injury in training on Friday.
But they still managed to earn their eighth win in their last nine league matches, also thanks to Roman Buerki’s string of fine saves.
It was also Leipzig’s first home loss of the season and Dortmund’s first league win there since their opponents were promoted to the Bundesliga a few seasons ago.
“We are extremely satisfied. It was as expected a very hard game. Leipzig came very close two or three times but we won in the end,” said Dortmund coach Lucien Favre.
“We played really well as a team. The first game of the year is always difficult so it was important to win here today. Roman Buerki was outstanding.”
Belgium international Witsel notched his second goal of the season in the 19th minute, firing in at the far post from a corner. His first had come on the first matchday against Leipzig back in August.
Leipzig were stronger after the break but Swiss keeper Buerki repeatedly came to the rescue, including with two saves in the 75th minute and another good stop from a Timo Werner shot two minutes later.
Dortmund supersub Paco Alcacer, who has 12 goals this season, came close to scoring in the 90th minute but his effort bounced off the crossbar.
The Ruhr valley club, who take on Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League last 16 next month, are on 45 points, six ahead of second-placed Bayern, who also made a winning start to the year with a 3-1 victory at Hoffenheim on Friday.
Borussia Moenchengladbach stayed on Bayern’s heels in third, with a 1-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen that lifted them to 36 points. Leipzig are fourth on 31.