This coming Saturday sees the always eagerly awaited Revierderby between fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 in what will be the 91st Bundesliga meeting between the two giants. It promises to be a real cracker at the Signal Iduna Park with Schalke above Dortmund in the table for the first time in quite a while and with two coaches undergoing quite different degrees of success at the moment.
There will be excitement aplenty as the two Ruhr clubs go head-to-head for the first time this season, but the game will do well to match the drama witnessed when the pair met back in the 1997/98 season.
The meetings between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke in the 1997/98 season were unique in that both sides took to the field as reigning European champions. The Schwarzgelben had hoisted the Champions League for the first time in Munich by beating Juventus 3-1, while die Knappen had also won a major European honour for the first time by also downing a famed Serie A side, Inter Milan, on penalties after a two-legged UEFA Cup final.
The first encounter between the sides at the Parkstadion in August, 1997 on matchday 3 had seen Schalke run out 1-0 winners thanks to an 86th minute goal from Ingo Anderbrugge. Nevio Scala had taken over the reins at Dortmund after Ottmar Hitzfeld had led them to European glory and BVB were struggling. Going into their second meeting with Schalke on December 19, 1997, they found themselves down in 11th place having won just six of their nineteen matches, Schalke on the other hand were up in 5th, although they were a full 11 points behind eventual champions Kaiserslautern.
The meeting at the sold-out 55,000 Westfalenstadion took place on matchday 20 on what was the final match before the Winterpause ,and being just six days before Christmas the festive spirit was in full flow. It was also the coincidentally Borussia Dortmund’s 88th birthday following their formation on 19th December 1909.
The Friday night match under the floodlights saw Borussia Dortmund take a first half lead when Russian Vladimir But fired home a free-kick, which Schalke goalkeeper Jens Lehmann really should have dealt with better. With both sides playing with just one striker (Heiko Herrlich for BVB and René Eijkelkamp for Schalke), the well organised defences were on top with Andy Möller under wraps and Olaf Thon more concerned with defensive duties than creating.
Fifteen minutes before the end and Schalke finally made the breakthrough grabbing what they believed was an all-important equaliser with another Russian, Denis Klyuyev, getting on the scoresheet. Signed from Belgian champions Lierse, it was to be Klyuyev’s only goal of the season and his stay in Gelsenkirchen was to be short-lived, as the newcomer made only 24 appearances for the club.
The equaliser however was only to provide a short moment of joy for the visitors as Dortmund retook the lead just four minutes later again via a free-kick. This time is was Andreas Möller’s turn to score direct from the set-piece to beat Lehmann for the second time.
The final ten minutes of the game were to see keeper Lehmann advancing upfield for every set-piece — such was his and Schalke’s desperation to rescue something from the game. Each corner and free-kick came to nothing as the clock ticked down on what looked like a morale-boosting win for the Dortmunder and an early Christmas present for their fans.
‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ is the saying, but in this instance the man in question had more than a little help from the linesman. With the clock ticking into injury time a cross from Schalke’s Marc Wilmots flew harmlessly over the bye-line only for the assistant Dirk Margenberg to decide that it must have come off a Dortmund player and awarded a corner.
Protests from the home side were waved away and up sprinted Lehmann yet again. Olaf Thon delivered the ball in from the right, Johan de Kock headed on, before Thomas Linke stuck out a foot and sent the ball towards the back post. There stood Lehmann to head coolly past Stefan Klos- a rival of his for a place in Berti Vogts national side. The 33,325th goal in Bundesliga history had been scored and remarkably it was the first time ever that a goalkeeper had got himself on the scoresheet from open play. It was however Lehmann’s second career league goal having previously scored against 1860 Munich from the penalty spot in March 1995.
Schalke fans in the away section went berserk, while Dortmund supporters turned their ire on the linesman for his mistake in awarding the corner. Indeed the poor official had to be accompanied from the pitch under a screen of umbrellas to protect him from the shower of lighters and beer that was thrown in his direction. Festive cheer had turned to anger quickly as the Dortmund fans felt robbed of the derby win for the holidays.
The Revierderby had been a real cracker to send the fans into the Winterpause and Jens Lehmann, who ironically would begin the first of five seasons at Dortmund just two seasons later, was to go down in history and take the plaudits from a breath-taking clash.
BVB boss Gerd Niebaum could not hide his anger at the final whistle, letting rip on the match officials and in particular linesman Dirk Margenberg, who he likened to Santa Claus and said that he had ruined the Christmas mood by awarding a corner “that never should have been given.”
Schalke’s Marc Wilmot’s admitted after the game that it should in fact have been a goalkick confessing that he had already turned and started running back.
The Rückrunde would see Schalke finish fifth in the table to clinch a UEFA Cup berth, while Borussia Dortmund trailed back in tenth. The real surprise was to be the triumph of promoted Kaiserslautern, who pipped Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title.
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