Derby winners! League leaders! Time for celebration! Borussia Dortmund beat regional rivals FC Schalke 04 2-1 on Matchday 14 of the Bundesliga season to claim victory in the 153rd Ruhr derby and continue their unbeaten start to the domestic campaign.
Boris Rupert reporting from Gelsenkirchen
The 61,767 visitors at a sold-out Veltins Arena saw Thomas Delaney head BVB into a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute. However, the Black & Yellows could not make their heavy dominance count and Schalke drew level on the hour-mark when Daniel Caligiuri converted a penalty awarded by VAR. But Jadon Sancho had the final say for Borussia Dortmund when he netted a quarter of an hour later to re-establish the lead and seal the victory.
Since their last win in the derby three years ago − a 3-2 victory in November 2015 − Borussia Dortmund had drawn four and lost one of their meetings with Schalke 04. The Royal Blues had only lost one of their previous five matches and went into this game in 12th place on 14 points, while Dortmund were on a four-match winning streak in the league.
Pulisic returned to the squad, while Akanji replaced the injured Zagadou in central defence. There was one other change to the starting XI that beat SC Freiburg 2-0 last time out: Götze dropped to the bench and Alcácer started in his stead.
Schalke lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond in midfield and played a high pressing game. Forwards McKennie and Burgstaller formed the first line of defence, with the trio of Harit, Bentaleb and Schöpf directly behind them. BVB started in their usual 4-2-3-1 system and looked to penetrate with quick and low build-up play. Delaney frequently dropped back between Akanji and Diallo during build-up play to allow full-backs Piszczek and Hakimi to push forward and create numerical superiority in midfield.
The match & analysis:
This was a derby brimming with intensity and passion from the first whistle but the Black & Yellows held their own and commanded respect. Piszczek was the first player to receive a caution, and his name was followed into the referee's notepad by the Schalke duo of Oczipka and Sané during the course of an opening half that was dominated by Borussia Dortmund.
The early opener came from a free-kick that was awarded for a foul on Hakimi by Schöpf. Reus sent an inswinging cross into the box towards Delaney, who broke away from his marker, Sané, and headed the ball into the top left corner of the goal from six metres out (7). Other chances for the visitors included a narrow second-minute miss from Hakimi and a powerful Alcácer effort from 16 metres that sailed centimetres wide (15).
Schalke did not create a single opportunity from open play in the first half, but they did almost level the score from a corner in the 28th minute only for Bürki to make an outstanding stop. There was little change in the balance of play after the restart. BVB dominated the game while a hard-running Schalke side plugged the gaps and denied the Black & Yellows any chances to double their advantage, meaning the visitors took in a slender 1-0 lead at the break.
As the game approached the hour mark, there was a tussle between Reus and Harit in the box and – following a late decision to consult VAR – referee Siebert pointed to the spot. Caligiuri fired the ensuing spot-kick into the bottom corner to make it 1-1 (61).
Schalke continued to sit deep and BVB initially struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas. But the breakthrough finally came when Sancho broke through down the left at speed and played a quick one-two with substitute Guerreiro before coolly slotting the ball into the far corner on the 74-minute mark. Reus had the opportunity to kill the game five minutes later but his effort was denied by the excellent reactions of S04 shot-stopper Fährmann. Further opportunities were squandered by the visitors to extend their lead, with Guerreiro striking the upright in the 85th minute. Schalke, however, posed little threat at the other end and BVB held on for the win.
BVB will now turn their attentions to their clash with AS Monaco, knowing that they need a win in the principality on the final matchday of the UEFA Champions League group stages if they are to beat Atlético Madrid to top spot. Their Bundesliga campaign resumes next Saturday when they host Werder Bremen at a sold-out Signal Iduna Park.