It was a tough day at the office for the BVB U19s, who suffered a bitter 4-0 defeat to Schalke in the derby. "I'm totally frustrated. Borussia Dortmund has higher expectations, and the players have higher expectations of themselves," bemoaned Youth Coordinator Lars Ricken, who subsequently warned: "We're running the risk of losing sight of our season objectives even before the winter break."

Michael Skibbe's charges were knocked out of the DFB Cup in the first round by Leipzig, are currently in "no man's land" – Ricken's words – in the Bundesliga, and the next setback could be around the corner if they lose away to Inter Milan in the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday. "Very concerning," was Ricken's take on the performance of the team, whose disappointing derby display – particularly in the first period – was watched by a crowd of approximately 1,200 spectators. "Schalke were significantly better than us in several areas," admitted Ricken.

Skibbe's response to his side's recent defensive vulnerabilities was to switch the system and line up with a back three of Knoop, Ferjani and Thaqi. From the outset, however, the new-look rearguard was given a real tough time by a Schalke side who have not been overly dangerous in front of goal this term (eight goals scored). Niclas Knoop was booked for a tactical foul on Henri Matter – and S04 defender Malick Thiaw comfortably rose to head home the ensuing free-kick and put the Royal Blues 1-0 ahead in the seventh minute.

Moukoko comes close to equalising

BVB looked to hit back quickly – and they might have drawn themselves level on the 10-minute mark when Youssoufa Moukoko went close, but he hesitated too much after his initial touch and was crowded out by the opposition. "That was fortunate for us and could've been a turning point in the game," remarked Schalke's Youth Coordinator Peter Knäbel at the break. It was to be one of few promising attacks for the Black & Yellows. The visitors largely controlled the match with their well-marshalled defence, while frequently posing a major threat to the Borussia Dortmund rearguard with their purposeful attacking play.

The second goal came in the 30th minute. A clearance following a corner initially fell to Kaparos and he crossed towards Thiaw, who escaped all too easily from his marker once again to slot home and make it 2-0. At the other end, Immanuel Pherai failed to beat Schalke shot-stopper Erdem Canpolat from a tight angle and Moukoko fired a free-kick from around 20 metres out over the bar on the stroke of half-time.

Skibbe tweaked his tactics and formation in the interval, with forward Reda Khadra replacing centre-back Knoop and giving the hosts considerably greater attacking momentum. Dortmund were more tough in the tackle and gained the upper hand – albeit without carving open clear chances. Moukoko appealed for a penalty following a push by Cross, as did Ansgar Knauff for what he felt was a Schalke handball in the box, but referee Felix Prigan waved away all their claims. Malte Wengerowski missed with a good effort from distance in the 55th minute, while Moukoko fired wide from 16 metres out – but Schalke were never seriously under threat.

Skibbe bemoans individual errors

The subsequent switches – Mert Göckan, Terzi and Hetemi replaced Kuffour, Wengerowski and Knauff respectively – did not have the desired effect, with Schalke instead extending their lead. Nik Deubel was powerless to prevent an 87th-minute free-kick from the excellent Bozdogan, while ex-BVB man Stanislav Fehler came off the bench to add a fourth.

"Things got really bad for us towards the end," admitted Michael Skibbe, who declared: "We need to recognise that some teams are significantly stronger and more structured than us in defence." The head coach bemoaned the individual errors that had gifted the first two goals of the game to the opposition. The situation at present may seem "depressing", but Skibbe remains confident as he looks to the tasks ahead. "Now we're up against opponents against whom we can and must take points. We can't drop any more."

First up, however, will be a UEFA Youth League meeting with Inter Milan on Wednesday evening. The Italians opened their group stage campaign with a 4-0 win over Sparta Prague and a 3-0 triumph at FC Barcelona.

BVB: Deubel – Wengerowski (Terzi, 79), Knoop (Khadra, 46), Ferjani, Thaqi, Kuffour (Göckan, 60) – Amedick – Knauff (Hetemi, 72), Pherai, Reyna – Moukoko.

Wilfried Wittke