Palacios scores dramatic winner as Bayer Leverkusen keeps unbeaten run going
DARMSTADT, Germany (AP) — Jadon Sancho had an assist for Borussia Dortmund on Saturday in his first game since returning to his old club on loan from Manchester United. It was his first match since August.
Sancho found space on the right flank and crossed low for Marco Reus to score Dortmund's second goal in a 3-0 win over Darmstadt in the Bundesliga.
The England forward had not played for more than four months amid a rift with Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag. After Sancho returned to Dortmund on loan until the end of the season, coach Edin Terzic indicated he would take it slowly in integrating him back into the team to avoid injuries.
That approach may not be necessary. Sancho showed little sign of rust after coming off the bench in the 55th minute for fellow English player Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, who showed his own skill in beating two Darmstadt players before assisting Julian Brandt for the first goal. Youssoufa Moukoko made it 3-0 in stoppage time with a shot that went in off the crossbar.
Starting the new year with three points was vital for Dortmund, which ended 2023 with a six-game winless run and struggled to bring its strong Champions League form to the Bundesliga. Beating Darmstadt was Dortmund's first win of any kind since a 3-1 victory over AC Milan on Nov. 28.
Dortmund stays fifth in the standings, 15 points off leader Bayer Leverkusen. Darmstadt is last and without a win since Oct. 7.
LEVERKUSEN'S DRAMATIC WIN
Leverkusen stayed unbeaten at the top of the Bundesliga as Exequiel Palacios' stoppage-time goal clinched a dramatic 1-0 win over Augsburg.
Coach Xabi Alonso ran onto the field in celebration when Leverkusen's 25th shot of the game finally brought a goal in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time. Argentina midfielder Palacios picked up the ball near the penalty spot in a crowded box and scored past the previously unbeatable Augsburg goalkeeper Finn Dahmen.
With Patrik Schick replacing the injured Victor Boniface up front, Leverkusen spent much of its first game since the winter break in and around the Augsburg box but couldn't get past Dahmen. The goal leaves Leverkusen four points clear of Bayern Munich at the top, though Bayern has one more game to play.
Each of Saturday's games began with a minute's silence dedicated to Franz Beckenbauer, who died last week at the age of 78. His former club Bayern Munich paid tribute Friday with a win over Hoffenheim in a Bundesliga game dedicated to his memory.
Boniface, Leverkusen's top scorer, was out with a thigh injury which requires surgery and also ruled him out of representing Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations. Boniface was watching the game on TV in a video posted to his Instagram account which showed two crutches leaning against his couch.
The Leverkusen defense was missing regulars Odilon Kossounou and Edmond Tapsoba, who are at the Africa Cup. The new-look back three included Robert Andrich, normally a midfielder, but held up well enough against Augsburg, which only had two shots all game — though there was a brief scare when Phillip Tietz seemed to have scored from an offside play.
Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel had highlighted fourth-place Leipzig as a possible title rival but it didn't look that way as a 1-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday left Leipzig 12 points off the lead. Ansgar Knauff scored for Frankfurt in the seventh off a defense-splitting cross-field pass from left back Niels Nkounkou.
Freiburg moved up to seventh place after a 0-0 draw with Union Berlin, while relegation-threatened Mainz held Wolfsburg to a 1-1 draw. Cologne and Heidenheim drew 1-1.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer