Borussia Dortmund have won the 156th Ruhr derby! The Black & Yellows, who currently occupy second spot in the table, breezed to a comfortable 4-0 win over FC Schalke 04 on their return to Bundesliga action and temporarily moved to within one point of league leaders Bayern Munich. Raphael Guerreiro netted a brace, with Erling Haaland and Thorgan Hazard scoring the other goals.
Matchday 26 took place some 70 days after a ball had last been kicked due to the corona pandemic. Second-placed Borussia Dortmund had won seven of their eight league games post-winter break and were level with Bayern Munich in terms of most goals scored in the division in 2020 (27). The sixth-placed side from Gelsenkirchen, meanwhile, were on a longer winless run than any other club, having last picked up three points when they beat Gladbach 2-1 in the first game back after the winter break.
Dortmund were without the injured Reus, Witsel, Can, Zagadou and Schulz. Having previously made eight appearances from the bench, 17-year-old Reyna was set to make his first start but felt a tweak during the warm-up and was unable to play. Hazard took his place in the starting XI. Sancho was omitted from the line-up due to a lack of training following an injury, but the Englishman was still included among the substitutes. Left-back Chris Führich, 22, from the U23s, made the squad for the first time.
The unavailability of Witsel and Can saw Delaney make his Bundesliga comeback following a seven-and-a-half-month injury-enforced absence, the Dane forming an entirely new-look defensive midfield partnership with Dahoud. The hosts lined up in a 3-4-3 formation that was as flexible as ever, with Hakimi and – on some occasions – Guerreiro dropping back to expand the defence into a back four or back five. Hazard and Brandt started in the wing-forward positions either side of frontman Haaland. Schalke also transitioned between a back three, four and five, but their high-pressing game in the opening stages left their hosts with plenty of space in behind. This was particularly noticeable on the right flank, where the overlapping Hakimi and Hazard cleverly exploited the gaps.
The match & analysis:
Both teams were relatively cautious as they eased back into the campaign with a match that produced numerous challenges but few lengthy spells of possession at the outset. BVB tracked back well in the opening stages and succeeded in outnumbering their opponents on several occasions, with Delaney & Co sometimes sprinting back to their own box at full speed. One notable example came in the 44th minute when Schalke's Harit was immediately crowded out after receiving a pass on the edge of the area. BVB doubled their lead soon after...
But let's go back to the beginning. BVB first threatened on the 12-minute mark when Hakimi spotted Haaland's run and crossed into the opposition penalty area from the right flank – but a Schalke defender managed to get an outstretched leg to the ball to deny the hosts an early opener. In the 24th minute, Haaland hit the side-netting from a centre-left position following a corner.
Aside from an underhit defensive header in the 26th minute that presented Caligiuri with an outstanding opportunity that was brilliantly kept out by Bürki's outstretched leg, Borussia Dortmund looked increasingly confident and dominant. The move for the opener, which came three minutes later, started when Piszczek won the ball back in his own half. Brandt flicked it into the path of Hazard, who outsprinted his marker on the right flank and played a perfect cross that was beautifully steered home by Haaland.
The second goal came on the stroke of half-time when Haaland charged down Schalke shot-stopper Schubert, whose wayward clearance was intercepted by Dahoud. Brandt then rolled a perfectly timed and weighted pass into the path of the overlapping Guerreiro, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner in the 45th minute.
Schalke made an attack-minded double substitution at the break – Burgstaller and Matondo came on in place of Raman and Tobido – and switched to a 4-4-2 formation, but it was all in vain as the Black & Yellows more or less put the game to bed within two minutes of the restart. Delaney won the ball back deep in his own half and Brandt played a brilliant ball into the path of Hazard, who needed only one touch to round off a high-speed counter.
Goals two and three could have hardly come at better times. But despite their lead, the hosts remained highly focused and sealed the points in the 156th Ruhr Derby in the 63rd minute. Brandt started the move for the fourth goal, with Guerreiro then playing a one-two with Haaland before beating the keeper with an exquisite finish with the outside of his boot. It was more or less a training match for the final 30 minutes, the Black & Yellows having earned the right to drop down a gear or two by virtue of their highly committed performance in the opening hour.
Borussia Dortmund are next in action when they visit VfL Wolfsburg next Saturday (15:30 CET).