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FEATURE | RB Leipzig keep pressure on Bayern Munich and Gladbach head coach Marco Rose

“Sorloth is Leipzig’s new Miracle Weapon!” proclaimed Bild after the Topspiel on Saturday after the Norwegian’s 92nd minute winner, putting RB Leipzig two points behind Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. Prior to the weekend’s fixtures, Leipzig boasted the best defensive record in the league, so to be 2-0 down at the break caught many by surprise. Sorloth’s introduction by Julian Nagelsmann was bold, given his performances, but it’s one that has put RB Leipzig firmly back into the title race.

“A beautiful moment,” Nagelsmann told the Bundesliga World Feed. “A very emotional moment. I think well deserved at the end.” For 45 minutes, it looked as though the title race was over with Borussia Mönchengladbach effectively handing Bayern Munich their ninth consecutive Meisterschale. A lapse in concentration from Bayern bound Dayot Upamecano allowed Breel Embolo to dribble his way into the area before being bundled over by the Frenchman. Péter Gulácsi got his fingertips to the ball but was unable to prevent Jonas Hofmann, who’s having a stellar campaign, from firing Gladbach into the lead from the spot after six minutes.

RB Leipzig continued to be the busier side, pressing aggressively, and superior in their attacking transitions but Gladbach doubled their lead after 20 minutes. Valentino Lazaro got the better of Marcel Halstenberg, who started ahead of Angelino, finding Embolo unmarked at the far post – the Switzerland international headed the ball towards goal, allowing Marcus Thuram get an important, but unintentional, touch on the ball, deflecting it past Gulácsi. “We conceded two goals that were avoidable,” added Nagelsmann. “It was not that good, our defensive performance in these situations.”

Even at 2-0 down, RB Leipzig offered glimpses of promise in attack. “I told my team it’s still possible because we’re the better team today,” said Nagelsmann post-match. Sortloth replaced Marcel Sabitzer at the break and 12 minutes later, the 25 year old assisted Christopher Nkunku – the Frenchman had been busy and proved a danger throughout and would later return the favour. Yussuf Poulsen equalised after 66 minutes with a well-taken strike from 20-yards. The Dane, who came close to joining a Premier League club in the summer, only to be persuaded by club bosses to stay, would prove troublesome for Matthias Ginter and Nico Elvedi, pressing Gladbach’s low block. “Our pressure was so high,” added Nagelsmann. “Our counter pressing was brilliant. There were nearly no dangerous situations before our goal in the second-half.” High praise from the head coach for Leipzig’s front three, who are expected to work hard.

Nagelsmann recognised Gladbach’s low defensive block of five but although dominating possession, Leipzig were aware of the threat that Marco Rose’s side pose on the break. “We knew that Gladbach will defend deeper and deeper and we have to control the number six space to avoid counter attacks,” said Nagelsmann. He would also play a front three, something we don’t see too often from the German tactician.

Still, they continued to push and although a goal-getter at Trabzonspor, Sorloth has been far from that since his €20 million transfer to Leipzig. Prior to Saturday’s winner, the Norway international had just one Bundesliga goal. Latching onto an Nkunku cross at the far post, Sorloth rose above Lazaro to head the ball past Yann Sommer. VAR intervened to decide if there was a foul, but referee Manuel Gräfe retained the on-field decision.

“We were sitting very deep, and it was only a matter of time before [Leipzig] scored,” said Hofmann. Triumph for Leipzig, their win has put Marco Rose in an uncomfortable spot. Since the announcement that he will leave Borussia Mönchengladbach for Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, the 44 year old has lost three games in a row – a defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League sandwiched by losses against Mainz and now Leipzig, putting them nine points adrift from a Champions League spot.

Talking Points

1 | Borussia Dortmund’s excellent week continued. Seven goals and two clean sheets to boot succeeded Die Schwarzgelben’s victory in Sevilla. Suddenly Edin Terzić’s team have the top four in view. Englishman Jadon Sancho assisted his 50th Bundesliga goal in 99 games, becoming the youngest player to achieve such a feat, before doubling Borussia’s lead against Arminia from the spot. “I was happy enough Marco [Reus] let me take the penalty and happy enough to score,” beamed Sancho. Erling Haaland, often self-critical when he doesn’t score, self-sacrificed his own scoring record to square the ball to Reinier for his first Borussia Dortmund goal. A resounding victory, suddenly Champions League football next season looks a real possibility for Sancho and Co.

2 | Werder Bremen got a much-needed win against high-flying Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday evening. “With the win, we put ourselves in a position where there will be no existential games for us, but positive ones,” said Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt. In danger of being dragged into the relegation battle, Kohfeldt dealt Adi Hütter’s first Bundesliga defeat since December 11, an unbeaten run of 11 games. André Silva returned, and scored his 19th Bundesliga goal for Eintracht Frankfurt this season but goals from Theodor Gebre Selassie and 21-year-old American Josh Sargent after the break gave Bremen a confidence-boosting win.

3 | Another weekend, and another Bayern Munich win. Hansi Flick’s side put five past FC Köln on Saturday afternoon to extend their lead at the top to five before RB Leipzig’s comeback against Borussia Mönchengladbach reduced the gap to two. Robert Lewandowski added to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s opening goal and is on course to beat Gerd Müller’s 40-goal Bundesliga record, who had 25 in comparison to Lewandowski’s 27 after 23 games, thus needing another 13 in the remaining 11 games to equal his record.

4 | Since Bayer Leverkusen’s defeat to Bayern Munich in December, the BayArena outfit have won just two in 10 Bundesliga games, putting pressure on head coach Peter Bosz. An impressive start to the campaign promised so much but injuries to key players Lukáš Hrádecký, Sven and Lars Bender has seen Die Werkself fall off the pace, and now lie five points adrift of a Champions League spot. Bosz would have hoped for redemption following their Europa League exit midweek but Freiburg are now closing in on their competitors in the race for Europe.

5 | Chaos continues at Schalke after the bottom-placed club relieved head coach Christian Gross and his assistant Rainer Widmayer, sporting director Jochen Schneider, team coordinator Sascha Riether & fitness coach Werner Leuthard of their duties with immediate effect following their defeat at Stuttgart. Bild reported a player revolt led by Sead Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, which had been denied by the Bundesliga club. “The sporting situation is unambiguous, so we have to think beyond the end of the season with regard to these still outstanding personnel changes,” said Dr. Jens Buchta, Chairman of the Supervisory Board. “The responsibility now falls on the team to try and be as successful as possible in the remaining third of the season. The players owe that to the club and to the fans.”

DP.

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