The 100th Bundesliga Revierderby, played on Saturday at the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen where Schalke 04 played host to ancient rivals Borussia Dortmund, was a truly spectacular game of football as Die Knappen, locked in the relegation battle again, drew level twice to bag a well-earned point.
It was a fine strike by centre-back Nico Schlotterbeck that broke the deadlock in the 38th minute, and Marius Bulter equalized in the 50th. Dortmund’s lead was restored by Raphael Guerreiro in the 60th, and thrown back down by Kenan Karaman in the 79th.
A look at the main stats of the game will tell the reader that it was Dortmund who dominated the game and having led twice, will consider themselves unlucky not to have returned home with the whole prize. The visitors enjoyed 66% of possession, taking a total of 20 shots, double the number of attempts by Schalke.
It took 24 minutes for Die Knappen to show the first sign of intent towards Alex Meyer’s goal as Rodrigo Zalazar failed to take advantage of the two Dortmund centre-backs making a mess between them, while at the other end, Dortmund had already wasted a number of opportunities through Guerreiro and Sebastien Haller by that time. A few minutes after, Edin Terzic’s men worked up a great team move which eventually saw Schalke ‘keeper Ralf Fahrmann deny Donyell Malen from a great position. Malen later set Marius Wolf up for a chance, but Fahrmann was alert once more. Schalke hit back quickly after that one, as Bulter broke down the left and whipped a low cross towards Michael Frey in the box, but Frey and Zalazar could get a shot off between them and eventually Mats Hummels cleared the danger decisively.
And as Dortmund went forward in number again and started circling the box, Schlotterbeck joined the attacking ranks and took advantage of Maya Yoshida not stepping up decisively enough to close him down, hitting a fine strike from just outside the box that bounced off the ground and beat Fahrmann; 0-1.
The Schalke ‘keeper did manage to save a low strike from the left by Jude Bellingham in the 41st minute, after the England international twisted and turned away from Cedric Brunner. Malen had a great chance two minutes later, but having combined beautifully with Wolf on the right flank, he couldn’t find the back of the net from close range.
Schalke responded well after the break, and their efforts were rewarded less than five minutes in. Alex Kral muscled Bellingham off the ball in the middle of the park and with a touch from Tom Krauss, it was picked up by Zalazar. Frey pulled out wide to the right and Zalazar found him, and Frey’s low ball to the far post found its target in the shape of Bulter, unmarked a yard from the goal; 1-1.
Interestingly enough, Guerreiro was deployed on the right side of a midfield three in this game, an unusual position for him, but in the 60th minute, he made a run down his preferred flank where Emre Can picked him out with a good pass, and his powerful shot from around 15 yards hit the back of the net with some force; 1-2.
Dortmund had a great chance to kill the contest off just four minutes later but having been set up by another excellent piece of work by Wolf, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens failed to hit the target when he really should’ve scored. Still, the task ahead for Schalke seemed huge at that point, but they didn’t give up and as time went on, they gradually pushed the visitors back. Several not very dangerous attempts came from them, shots were being taken, corners won.
They were rewarded once more in the 79th minute, and Kral played a big part in winning the ball again, this time poking it away from Haller for Karaman to pick up and take it up the right flank. His low cross was half-cleared by Wolf, but Bulter picked it up on the left and whipped it back in, aiming for Karaman at the far post. Karaman beat Julian Ryerson to it and aimed a great header into the far corner, leaving Meyer powerless to stop it; 2-2.
Between that last goal of the game and the final whistle, Dortmund’s efforts to find a third were very feeble, with no power to trouble a resolute Schalke defence.
The Bellingham quality
This game was by no means the best we’ve seen from Bellingham. There were players in both teams that can be said to have played a better game than the 19-year-old midfielder, and yet, he did manage to show glimpses of why top clubs around Europe dream of signing him this summer.
Bellingham managed WhoScored.com rating of 7.0, behind six of his teammates from the starting XI and one Schalke player (Bulter). But compared to Tom Krauss, the Schalke player with the role closest to Bellingham’s for Dortmund, the Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid target had more shots (2-0), more possession (7.8%-1.6%), better pass accuracy rate (57%-84%), completed more dribbles (4-1) and more tackles (2-1). He was also dispossessed more times (2-0) and won less aerial duels (0-2). It should be said, however, that Krauss stayed closer to defence-minded Kral in Schalke’s rigid 4-2-3-1 setup, while Bellingham obviously enjoyed more freedom in Dortmund’s very flexible 4-3-3.
Bellingham is a player who takes his defensive duties seriously, while always looking to be involved in attacking moves, showing great skill, vision, passing range and perseverance – it’s a close as it gets to a perfect No. 8 in a 4-3-3, the system employed by all three of his most determined suitors.
With Liverpool set for a midfield overhaul this summer, Bernardo Silva possibly on his way out of City and Kevin De Bruyne apparently over the hill, as well as Real’s Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, it makes much sense for each of those clubs to have Bellingham topping their wish list at the moment.
The only question is, will any of them pay Dortmund’s reported price of €150million for his services? Let’s wait and see.
It’s always a setback for a team competing for the title in any league to fail to win a game, regardless of the opposition. The two points that escaped Dortmund’s grasp in this match have created a gap between them and Bayern Munich at the top of the table, the perpetual Bundesliga champions who beat Augsburg at the Allianz Arena by 5-3 on the same day.
Further more, RB Leipzig smashed Borussia Monchengladbach 3-0 at the Red Bull Arena, reducing their own deficit towards Dortmund to five points and moving from fourth place to third, while Union Berlin, now fourth, and fifth-place SC Freiburg, are yet to play their matches on Sunday against Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim, respectively.
Meanwhile, the point they took from this contest means Schalke have unglued themselves from the bottom, moving above Hoffenheim by a point, and while Dortmund hope Die Kraichgauer can get something from their trip to Freiburg, Schalke will be hoping for the opposite. The relegation battle will likely be every bit as interesting as that deciding the title at the other end.
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