DORTMUND, Germany -- Borussia Dortmund maintained their Bundesliga lead with a crazy 4-3 win over FC Augsburg that was decided by a Paco Alcacer free kick in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
It was a heated match at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday, with Augsburg determined to hunt the host for every inch of the field.
After 22 minutes, Alfred Finnbogason squeezed the ball past Roman Burki after the ball fell into his lap off a set piece to deservedly put the guests ahead -- though VAR might have intervened because Andre Hahn blatantly pushed Marco Reus to the ground as the ball was played into the box.
Dortmund, tired after playing their seventh match in three weeks, needed a long time to respond against feisty guests, who totalled seven yellow cards over 90 minutes. The game kicked into another gear with the introduction of Alcacer in the 62nd minute. The Spaniard was on the pitch just three minutes before he slotted home the equaliser -- courtesy of Jadon Sancho's sixth assist of the season.
Yet Augsburg were thoroughly unimpressed and kept the pressure on the Ruhr side and rewarded themselves with the lead again nine minutes later as Philipp Max finished from a tight angle on the break.
With 20 minutes left to play, the Black and Yellows found their second wind and mounted the pressure. Substitute Raphael Guerreiro had the presence of mind to dink a free kick to Alacer, who volleyed home past Andreas Luthe. And BVB surely thought they had won it in the 84th minute. Substitute Mario Gotze caught his brother Felix Gotze napping as he made a run into the box and tucked the ball in from a tight angle for the 3-2 lead.
But Augsburg were not defeated yet. In the 87th minute, Michael Gregoritsch beat Abdou Diallo to a header off a corner. The ball bounced off Burki into the net. However, it was Alcacer who had the last laugh with a free kick from 25 yards out. The shot to the near post caught Luthe by surprise and sent the Westfalenstadion into pandemonium.
Michael Zorc said after the match that he hadn't seen the stadium boiling that loudly in the final minutes of a game in a very long time. Even after Augsburg equalised for the 3-3, both the Dortmund fans and the team on the pitch showed a palpable belief that they could still keep all three points at home. The hosts stayed calm and trusted their footballing quality rather than punting long balls downfield in the hope for a lucky deflection. And they were rewarded yet again.
In 10 competitive games this season, Dortmund have failed to score before the break. Lucien Favre bemoaned the balance of his team that conceded thrice for the first time this season, but Augsburg certainly deserve credit for their relentless aggression and their ability to profit off every untidy play by the league leaders.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Favre could not rotate as much as he wanted to due to several niggling injuries in the squad, but yet again all four goals were scored by substitutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- Had to keep his team in the game right after half-time with a strong double save but looked awkward in Gregoritsch's goal.
DF Achraf Hakimi, 7 -- The right-back was a 90-minute headache for Augsburg's defence, and picked out an intelligent pass to assist Gotze's goal. At times, he also posed a headache for his fellow defenders.
DF Manuel Akanji, 7 -- Made strong forward runs to break Augsburg's man-marking. Had a couple of awkward passes, too.
DF Dan-Axel Zagadou, 7 -- The 19-year-old kept his strong form alive using both his physique and wit to dominate on both sides of the ball. If there is one caveat, the referee should have pointed to the spot after the centre-back took out Gregoritsch in the box after 14 minutes.
DF Abdou Diallo, 4 -- The left-back had his moments going forward but was too often exposed on his left side. He looked questionable in all of Augsburg's goals.
MF Axel Witsel, 6 -- Had a monster play before Dortmund equalised the first time, as he won the ball in midfield and then sent Sancho into space for a pre-assist.
MF Julian Weigl, 5 -- At times, Weigl looked lost against physical Augsburg, who followed him wherever he went.
MF Jacob Bruun Larsen, 4 -- The Dane was visibly tired and was the first to be subbed out at the hour mark.
MF Marco Reus, 6 -- Reus was bullied by Augsburg over stretches of the game as the guests pushed him to the ground whenever they had the chance. It provoked an outburst of frustration from the captain that warranted a booking in the 52nd minute but it got the crowd riled up.
MF Jadon Sancho, 7 -- The Englishman grabbed his sixth assist of the season in his first league start, once again underscoring why he earned Gareth Southgate's call-up to England's senior team.
FW Maximilian Philipp, 4 -- With Alcacer not having the fitness yet to start after playing his first full 90 minutes for the club on Wednesday, Philipp had to fill in as centre-forward yet again. It went as badly as expected.
FW Paco Alcacer, 10 -- The Spaniard is too much to handle for Bundesliga defences; with only 81 minutes of accumulated playing time, he is the league's top scorer with six goals. His hat trick on Saturday was a demonstration of his sheer brilliance.
MF Raphael Guerreiro, 7 -- Playing on the left wing, Guerreiro energised BVB's attack. He grabbed an assist for Alcacer but arguably his best move of the game was to leave the final free kick to the Spanish striker after he had already placed it on the grass for himself.
MF Mario Gotze, NR -- Fans greeted Gotze with a very loud cheer as he made his first appearance in the league off the bench. They cheered even harder after he scored the temporary 3-2 lead. The 26-year-old used his 13-minute appearance well, building triangles all over the pitch and bringing Dortmund's combination play to life.