Christopher Nkunku turned on the class with a delicious finish as RB Leipzig defeated FC Cologne 4-2 on Monday, while Achraf Hakimi scored again as Borussia Dortmund bounced back from their midweek defeat by Bayern Munich to smash SC Paderborn 07 6-1 away on Sunday.
Hakimi’s hopes of ending his time at BVB with a Bundesliga title when Lucien Favre’s side lost 1-0 to their bitter rivals following Joshua Kimmich’s chip, a result that extended the Bavarians’ advantage atop the table to seven points.
By the time Dortmund took to the field against Paderborn on Sunday, they were 10 points off the pace after Bayern had defeated Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday.
They failed to ignite during a sluggish first half against the relegation strugglers, and Nigeria’s Jamilu Collins cleared a goalbound effort off the line as the contest remained goalless after the break.
The floodgates opened in the second half, however, with Hakimi playing a key role as Paderborn were carved open six times in 37 minutes.
Jadon Sancho stole the headlines with his hat-trick, but the Morocco right-back added the visitors’ fourth when he slammed home a right-footed effort from inside the box after Marcel Schmelzer’s run across the area had flummoxed the hosts’ defence.
Hakimi celebrated by lifting his shirt to reveal an undershirt reading ‘Justice for George Floyd’, the same message that had been displayed by his teammate Sancho earlier in the contest.
“Together we will defeat racism,” Hakimi wrote on his Instagram handle after the match. “Justice!”
The North African’s strike was his fifth goal of the season, and coupled with his 10 assists, he’s averaging a direct goal contribution once every 160 minutes for BVB this term.
Bayern handed a return to action to Dutch-Nigerian youngster Joshua Zirkzee, who hadn’t featured since before the coronavirus-enforced suspension, and he made a 15-minute cameo as they dispatched Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 on Saturday.
None of Fortuna’s four Ghanaians made the field, although Kelvin Ofori was an unused substitute as their gap to the bottom two was narrowed to two points.
RB Leipzig and creator-in-chief Nkunku struggled to ignite during their return Bundesliga clash with SC Freiburg in mid-May, but they’ve picked up the pace since.
Nkunku contributed an assist in the 2-2 home draw with Hertha in midweek, and he followed that with a goal as Cologne were dispatched.
However, after falling behind, Leipzig finally made their possession count when Patrik Schick levelled in the 20th minute and Nkunku added a second 18 minutes later.
The Franco-Congolese midfielder, bursting from deep, picked up a fine through-ball from Konrad Laimer and controlled it beyond the home side’s defence before finishing coolly past Timo Horn.
His composure in front of goal will have come as some succour for Julian Nagelsmann, following news that one of his key attackers — Yussuf Poulsen — has been ruled out indefinitely after picking up an ankle injury.
Leipzig pulled further clear in the second half through Timo Werner, and Dani Olmo killed the contest after Anthony Modeste had pulled a goal back 10 minutes after the break.
Leipzig can overtake BVB into second when they host Paderborn in one of Saturday’s earlier kickoffs.
No team this season has taken more points from losing positions this season than Nagelsmann’s side, a stat that will surely give them encouragement as they look to keep the pressure on the top two.
Ramy Bensebaini was restored to Borussia Monchengladbach‘s starting line-up for the visit of Union Berlin, after bring dropped to the bench, only to come on for 19 minutes, against Werder Bremen in midweek.
The Algeria international — a more attack-minded option than his left-back rival Oscar Wendt — repaid Marco Rose’s faith with another sterling display.
The highlight of his performance was an 81st-minute assist for Alassane Plea — a sharp cross from the left flank — as Gladbach ran out 4-1 winners in front of a stadium filled with cardboard cut-outs of the club’s supporters.
This was another exemplary showing from the wideman who created one further goalscoring opportunity for his teammates, and also went close with a free kick.
He also won three aerial battles, made four clearances and competed two tackles, as he continues to go from strength to strength.
Union, for whom Anthony Ujah was introduced as an 80th-minute substitute, have struggled to find momentum after the league’s return, and they have dropped to 14th, four points above the bottom three.
Gladbach move up to 56 points, more than they managed in the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign.
Hoffenheim clinched all three points in a particularly ill-tempered contest — there were a Bundesliga-record seven first-half yellow cards — when he brought down a long ball from Diadie Samassekou, outmuscled Congo’s Ridle Baku, and finished calmly beyond Florian Muller.
“Back on track,” the Togo forward posted on his Instagram handle after the match.
It was perhaps the outstanding moment of African excellence in the German top flight, and also secured an important three points for Hoffenheim, who introduced Nigerian Kevin Akpoguma from the bench.
Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi was ineffectual on Mainz’s right flank, struggling to trouble the defence as he had done so effectively against Cologne last month, and Pierre Kunde Malong couldn’t salvage a point for the hosts after coming off the bench.
Mainz’s defensive record — 62 goals conceded this term — is the worst in the division.
Salif Sane and Nassim Boujellab were both in action for Schalke 04, who’s woeful form continued with a 1-0 home defeat by Werder Bremen, while Jordan Torunarigha was a commanding presence as Hertha Berlin defeated Noah Bazee‘s FC Augsburg 2-0 at the Olympiastadion.
Edmond Tapsoba and Moussa Diaby were introduced from the bench for fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who finally made their immense possession dominance count with a 54th-minute winner from Kai Havertz to see of Freiburg.