Despite Bayern Munich being the dominant team in the Bundesliga for a long time now, the clash between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, widely known as the Revierderby, is still being described as the fiercest football rivalry in Germany.
On Saturday afternoon, Dortmund welcomed Schalke to the Signal Iduna Park for the 50th time in the Bundesliga (99th Revierderby at both venues combined), and won the contest thanks to a wonderfully accurate cross from Marius Wolf in the 78th minute which substitute Youssoufa Moukoko headed into the back of the Schalke net.
The Derby may be an important occasion for the two clubs, and particularly their supporters, but at the moment, the difference in quality and the respective positions of Dortmund and Schalke in German football simply have to come into the equation. Schalke, who have only just returned to the Bundesliga, therefore had to settle for coming to the Signal Iduna Park to defend, rather than compete openly against a team hoping to win the title after more than a decade of Bayern sitting on the throne.
With that in mind, it was not exactly surprising to see the home side dominate possession (67%), taking 17 shots, five on target, compared to Schalke’s total of three, all wide of the mark.
Alex Meyer, largely untested in this game, stood between the posts for Edin Terzic’s side, with the duo of Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck as the centre-back pair in front of him, Thomas Meunier and Wolf on the defensive flanks, Jude Bellingham and Salih Ozcan pairing up in the middle of the park, and the trio of captain Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Donyel Mallen supporting striker Anthony Modeste upfront.
For Schalke, Alexander Schwolow was in goal. Maya Yoshida and Liverpool loanee Sepp van de Berg were in the heart of defence, flanked by Tobias Mohr and Henning Matriciani. The double pivot in the middle of the park was formed by Florian Flick and Tom Krauss, while in attack, striker Simon Terodde had the trio of Dominick Drexler, Jordan Larsson and Marius Bulter in support.
Given everything that happened on the pitch, Dortmund more than deserved the three points, and only a great performance from goalkeeper Schwolow saved the visitors from a more substantial defeat in terms of the scoreline. Modeste, Malen and Giovanni Reyna, who replaced the injured Reus in the 32nd minute, all wasted great opportunities for Dortmund, and Schwolow did incredibly well to deny Malen and particularly Jude Bellingham.
Moments of tension
With the fierceness of the rivalry in mind, this was a largely quiet match, meaning that it mostly went without any controversial moments, no quarrels between the two sets of players. That, however, changed straight away after Schalke boss withdrew Krauss and sent on the more attack-minded Rodrigo Zalazar in the 81st minute.
The Uruguayan hadn’t been more than two minutes on the pitch when he was taken out with surprising brutality by Karim Adeyemi, who had replaced Malen earlier. Zalazar reacted angrily, looking to confront the young Dortmund forward, but referee Felix Brych was on-hand to deal with the situation and book Adeyemi, who had at least the presence of mind to walk away quickly and let others calm things down.
Nonetheless, the desire of Dortmund players to make life difficult for Zalazar wasn’t easily put out. In the 84th minute, Terzic replaced Brandt with Emre Can, and the first thing the former Liverpool and Juventus midfielder did was mow down Zalazar almost as brutally as Adeyemi. Brych whipped out the yellow card just as quickly, but this time it was Can himself who sorted the situation out by offering Zalazar what felt like a sincere apology.
Be that as it may, the two incidents were clearly created to quickly extinguish any spark that Zalazar’s introduction to the contest might have brought to an uninspiring Schalke performance, and they obviously did so. There was just one goal separating the two teams, but Schalke simply didn’t do anything to threaten Meyer in the Dortmund goal in the last 10 minutes, plus stoppage time. So much so, that Dortmund did not feel compelled at all to go in search of a second goal with any determination.
Marco Reus definitely falls into that category of players whose careers might have been significantly more stellar, had there not been for injuries which continuously hampered their efforts to put their vast quality out there for the world to enjoy.
The Dortmund captain started the match brightly, but after half an hour, he stepped awkwardly and his ankle got twisted as he tried to get around Flick. The injury needed urgent treatment and he was forced to make way for Reyna.
Bad news for Terzic, bad news for Dortmund, not to mention Reus himself, but on the bright side, sporting director Sebastian Kehl said after the match that the 33-year-old attacker would miss only around three, four weeks. The injury clearly isn’t as bad as it was initially feared.
Reus will miss Germany’s Nations League clashes with Hungary and England later this month, probably the Bundesliga clashes against Koln and Bayern and the Champions League double feature against Sevilla as well, but he should be back after that and his involvement at the World Cup in Qatar shouldn’t be in danger for now.
A look at the table
The victory has placed Dortmund at the top of the German top flight, at least for a day. They could remain there at the end of the round, but that will only be the case if Union Berlin fail to beat Wolfsburg at home and SC Freiburg fail to beat Hoffenheim away on Sunday.
The most notable aspect of the Bundesliga campaign at the moment is the struggle of Bayern Munich. The defending champions are currently in fourth place with 12 points, three less than Dortmund. They drew three consecutive matches, before suffering a shocking 1-0 defeat at the hands of FC Augsburg on Saturday. It seems the departure of Robert Lewandowski and the failure to replace the Poland international with a new No. 9 is proving costly, despite the arrival of former Liverpool star Sadio Mane.
Could this finally be Dortmund’s year? We’ll see.
As for Schalke, their goal will, of course, be to survive in the top flight at the end of the season and take it from there. Right now, they’re in 14th place with six points, and there’s no real way to tell which was the battle will go over the next nine months.
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