Borussia Dortmund were beaten 2-0 (0-0) at FC Schalke 04 in the 152nd Ruhr derby. The result widens the gap between the teams, with the Black & Yellows now four points adrift of their second-placed rivals.
Dennis-Julian Gottschlich reporting
The 61,786 fans at a sold-out Veltins Arena saw a hard-fought opening half in the derby, with Schalke creating the better chances to score. Bürki thwarted the best of those with a spectacular save to deny Schöpf in the fifth minute. But BVB were well in the game too and could themselves have taken the lead had Reus' free-kick not been clawed away from danger by Fährmann (24). It was the hosts who went ahead though, breaking the deadlock early in the second period through Konoplyanka (50). BVB created chances to level, but Pulisic, Reus and Batshuayi all missed and Naldo scored from a direct free-kick at the other end to seal the win (82).
BVB were unbeaten in their previous six clashes with S04, although the four most recent derbies had all ended in stalemate. Among them was the reverse fixture earlier this season, in which the Black & Yellows blew a four-goal lead to draw 4-4. The derby had a real top-of-the-table feeling for the first time in a while. A win would have seen the visitors leapfrog the Royal Blues into second place.
BVB were missing Durm (torn lateral collateral ligament in ankle), Guerreiro (torn muscle fibre), Zagadou (torn muscle bundle), Kagawa (ankle) and Rode (groin operation). Schürrle and Akanji returned to the squad. Peter Stöger fielded the same starting XI that recorded a 3-0 victory over Stuttgart last time out. Schalke were without Baba, Embolo and Nastasic.
The Royal Blues lined up in a clear formation but played with a degree of tactical flexibility. Caligiuri (right) and Schöpf expanded the back three into a back five when required. They were protected by Bentaleb in defensive midfield. In defensive situations he was supported by Goretzka, who pushed forward alongside Harit – in the role behind strikers Burgstaller and Konoplyanka – when the hosts had the ball. BVB countered Schalke's 3-5-2 with a 4-2-3-1 in which Sahin and the slightly more offensive-minded Dahoud protected the back four.
The match & analysis:
From the first whistle it was a fast-paced and entertaining Ruhr derby, in which Schalke attempted to use quick switch-play to make their mark and looked marginally more purposeful at the outset. But there were chances at both ends. In the very first minute, Kehrer found himself under pressure from Pulisic and attempted a risky backpass to Fährmann that the goalkeeper was only able to clear away from the US international at the very last second. At the other end of the pitch, Schöpf forced Bürki into a really spectacular save with a shot from 17 metres out on the five-minute mark. At full stretch, the Swiss shot-stopper turned the shot around the post with his fingertips.
Both teams looked more solid defensively in the period that followed. BVB only allowed their hosts two chances in the opening half-hour, the first a shot from Burgstaller that sailed wide (13) and the second a Kehrer header from a free-kick that went well over (25). But Fährmann had little to do himself aside from saving a Reus free-kick, which he clawed away from the top corner of the goal magnificently to prevent the visitors drawing first blood (24). It was a first-half characterised by great commitment and lots of battles, albeit without tempers flaring excessively. As the match edged closer towards half-time, the hosts looked livelier again and pressured BVB at times. Konoplyanka had an effort on goal from 15 metres that curled wide of the back post (45+1).
BVB fail to capitalise on chances
The second period could hardly have got off to a worse start. Only five minutes had elapsed when BVB gave possession away. Caligiuri won the ball back and sent a pass in behind the Borussia Dortmund defence to team-mate Konoplyanka, the Ukrainian picking his spot and hammering an unstoppable effort into the back of the net (50). Buoyed by the euphoria of taking the lead, Schalke increasingly put the Black & Yellows under pressure in the quarter of an hour that followed but could not carve open any clear-cut chances to double their advantage. In what was a heated atmosphere, BVB battled to find an equaliser and came close with a Reus attempt on 66 minutes, though his effort from 11 metres was comfortably dealt with by Fährmann. A short while later Reus set up Pulisic, whose effort from the penalty spot was off target (71).
As the match drew towards a close, Konoplyanka had another opportunity but dragged his shot wide (74). A short while later Schmelzer found himself unmarked in the box but several attempts to shoot were all blocked by the Royal Blues (76). A minute later, Reus missed the target with another shot from a centre-right position (77). The Black and Yellows fought back, unwilling to accept defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals, but Batshuayi missed the chance to level with a header from a narrow angle (81). The Schalke faithful were soon celebrating again when Naldo curled a free-kick from a central position around the wall and into the net to make it 2-0 (82). Schürrle (87) and Reus (89) subsequently had attempts that were both thwarted by Fährmann. To add injury to insult, Batshuayi had to be stretchered off right at the end.
Borussia Dortmund are next in action on Saturday 21 April (18:30 CET), when they face Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.