It was a match that looked to be heading towards a scoreless draw, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored the game's only goal as Borussia Dortmund beat Hannover 1-0 at the Westfalenstadion. In stark contrast to Tuesday's hectic encounter with Stuttgart, this one was a much more subdued affair.
Hannover, who have now lost seven in a row in the Bundesliga, weren't expected to be much of a match for Dortmund. Thomas Schaaf's men came to play and defended well throughout the game, avoiding the blowout that many thought it would be.
Dortmund controlled the game from start to finish, ending the match with 71 percent possession on the day. BVB managed seven shots on target to Hannover's one. Ron-Robert Zieler made some fine saves, particularly in the first half. Zieler had a lot more to do than Roman Burki, who was a spectator for much of the match.
The home side's frustration lasted 57 minutes as they probed the disciplined Hannover defense for a way through. Much has been made this season of the close proximity that many of Dortmund's goals have come from, but Mkhitaryan was determined to change that.
GOAL, Dortmund! Mkhitaryan gives BVB the 1-0 lead with a wonderful solo effort. https://t.co/U4QjrzAs3F— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 13, 2016
The Armenian international scored his eighth goal of the season and Dortmund's first of the campaign from outside the penalty box. Mkhitaryan picked the ball up at midfield after Hannover turned the ball over on a rare attack. He then took the ball all the way to the edge of the box where he cut inside on his right foot and placed the ball low and into the side netting. Zieler never had a chance.
"We know that we have room for improvement," said Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel after the game. "We could not get everything, but that's okay. In the coming weeks we will be tested at the highest level and we feel ready for it."
The goal was far and away the standout moment of a game in which BVB were not at their best. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed out with a slight injury, but he should be available for Thursday's Europa League match against FC Porto. Without Aubameyang, Marco Reus was tasked with playing in a more central role at times, but it was clear that Dortmund missed the presence of Germany's top scorer at the striker spot. BVB's play may not have turned too many heads, but Aubameyang's outfit at the match certainly did.
Looks like Dortmund star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is ready for the new Zoolander movie... pic.twitter.com/kAM9JXFRdm— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 13, 2016
One concern for Tuchel after the match will be the status of Matthias Ginter. Ginter had a very strong game in the defensive midfield before he took a hard fall late in the game and was subbed off. The 22-year-old came down on his arm and was reportedly holding it gingerly after the match. Tuchel said after the game that he "believed" it was nothing serious.
With the Porto game on Thursday, Tuchel also gave rests to Sokratis and Julian Weigl. Neven Subotic was given the start alongside Mats Hummels in defense, and Subotic performed well despite struggles last year after injury and a lack of playing time this season.
17-year-old Christian Pulisic came off the bench for Dortmund in the 64th minute to make his third appearance for the senior team. The American youngster looked bright in his time on the pitch. Late in the game he nearly floated a cross perfectly for Reus at the back post, but a Hannover defender was just able to head the ball away to rob Pulisic of his first assist in the Bundesliga.
The win takes BVB to within five points of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. Bayern travel to 14th placed Augsburg tomorrow afternoon.
Dortmund now turn their attention to Porto's visit on Thursday in the Europa League Round of 32. BVB's next action in the Bundesliga will be a tough trip to Leverkusen next Sunday.