Dortmund beats Leverkusen, closes gap on Bayern Munich

Dortmund's Karim Adeyemi celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

BERLIN (AP) — Karim Adeyemi scored his first Bundesliga goal on Sunday to help Borussia Dortmund beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 and cut the gap on leader Bayern Munich to three points.

It was Dortmund’s third consecutive win to start 2023 and lifts Edin Terzić’s team to fourth.

“These three points were very important,” Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said. “It wasn’t easy today, but we knew it wouldn’t be. But still, we did really well. We resisted (Leverkusen’s attacks) and were then ice-cold with the goals.”

Sébastien Haller made his first start for Dortmund since undergoing treatment for testicular cancer and the Ivory Coast striker created the space for Adeyemi to score in the 33rd minute for the visitors.

But Dortmund also needed some outstanding saves from Gregor Köbel to deny Leverkusen. The hosts had won their last five games and hadn’t lost a match under new coach Xabi Alonso since a 2-0 defeat at Leipzig in October.

And this time Dortmund didn’t need a late winner from Gio Reyna, following the American’s late goals for the victories over Mainz (2-1) and Augsburg (4-3).

Marius Wolf was involved in both goals Sunday, winning possession with a block against Nadiem Amiri for the first. Julian Brandt played a one-two with Jude Bellingham and Haller left his cross through for the unmarked Adeyemi to score.

“I told Seb to let it through, he let it through,” Adeyemi said. “I was a bit surprised ... because I didn’t say it loudly.”

Adeyemi was under pressure with no goals from any of his previous 13 appearances, but the 21-year-old player was engaged from the start in Leverkusen, harrying defenders and pushing for the ball. Adeyemi was booked just after scoring for a clumsy challenge on Jeremie Frimpong at the other end of the field.

Wolf set up Dortmund’s second goal in the 53rd. Bellingham played a long ball out to Wolf on the right, and the winger’s cross was deflected in by Leverkusen defender Edmond Tapsoba’s shin under pressure from Bellingham.

Terzić brought on Marco Reus for the final five minutes as the Dortmund captain made his comeback from injury.

Earlier Sunday, Cologne drew at last-place Schalke 0-0.

Bayern on Saturday was held at home by Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 for its third consecutive draw to start the year. Bayern’s lead over second-place Union Berlin is down to just a point. Leipzig is third.