MONCHENGLADBACH, Germany — Borussia Monchengladbach took back the top spot in the Bundesliga on Sunday after Breel Embolo scored two goals and set up another in a 4-2 win against Freiburg.
Gladbach now leads second-place Leipzig by a point in a welcome turnaround for the team after defeat to promoted Union Berlin last week. Next up is a different kind of test — Bayern Munich.
"I’m really, really satisfied today with the result and my team’s performance," said Gladbach coach Marco Rose, who rested five players after Thursday’s Europa League win over Austrian side Wolfsberg.
One of those coming in to face sixth-place Freiburg was Embolo, who hadn’t played a full 90 minutes in the league since September.
With the score at 1-1, Embolo needed less than a minute of the second half to put Gladbach in front with his first Bundesliga goal in nearly two months.
The Switzerland striker hit a penalty against the post soon after, but redeemed himself by setting up Patrick Herrmann for Gladbach’s third in the 51st minute.
Freiburg scored through Lucas HÃ¶ler and nearly levelled soon after but for a goal-line clearance. However, Embolo was there again to restore the two-goal lead in the 71st.
Recovering from the penalty miss to score again reflected Embolo’s character, Rose said.
"It speaks for him and the team," he said. "He was working really hard and had a hand in creating a lot of really good situations."
Earlier, Marcus Thuram had given Gladbach the lead in the 3rd minute when Freiburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken dropped a header, but the lead lasted just three minutes before Jonathan Schmid levelled with a free kick.
In near-freezing temperatures, Gladbach’s home fans were fired up by the win and their team’s largely unexpected challenge for its first German title in 43 years.
Rose promised the stadium would be "on fire" for Bayern’s visit in six days’ time. Last season’s champions lost on Saturday to Bayer Leverkusen.
Known for celebrating wins by waving a corner flag with his shirt on top, Thuram gave the ritual a seasonal twist after the final whistle on Sunday. He took a Christmas sweater in club colours and placed it atop the flag, which he then uprooted and waved in front of the fans.
Werder Bremen enjoyed a 3-2 win at Wolfsburg thanks to an 83rd-minute winning goal from Milot Rashica.
The Kosovo midfielder had earlier opened the scoring for Bremen. Wolfsburg came back from a goal down twice — first with Wout Weghorst’s goal to cancel out Rashica’s opener, and later when William made it 2-2 after Leonardo Bittencourt had scored for Bremen.
Weghorst nearly levelled again in added time, but Bremen keeper Jiri Pavlenka pushed his header away with his fingertips in an acrobatic dive.
Bremen moves up to 12th after ending an eight-game winless run in the Bundesliga, while Wolfsburg is ninth.