The first silverware of the Bundesliga season, the Supercup, was up for grabs as reigning champions Borussia Dortmund faced off with DFB Pokal victors, and bitter local rivals, Schalke 04. Despite dominating for much of the game, Dortmund failed to hit the net in regular time and the score was stuck at 0-0 after 90 minutes. The match went straight to penalties and Dortmund fell to Schalke 4-3, keeper Ralf Fährmann becoming a Gelsenkirchen hero after saving two penalties in his first competitive match for the club.
Dortmund began brightly, immediately threatening Schalke’s goal with pace and aggression. An early chance fell to captain Sebastian Kehl, whose header from a corner came off the upright. Throughout the match, Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa were the Schalke defense’s worst nightmare, darting hither and thither and threading daring passes all over the park. But Dortmund’s primary weakness, profligacy in front of goal, bit them in the behind as it had several times towards the end of last season and they were unable to find the net. Großkreutz was fired up and got off a couple long piledrivers, but Fährman wasn’t truly tested. Robert Lewandowski also had a couple good chances, played through by intelligent passes from newcomer Ilkay Gündogan, but on one occasion he was denied by the consistently brilliant Fährmann and on the other pulled his shot wide. Of course, Dortmund were missing their main man up top, Lucas Barrios, but as Barrios has sometimes been guilty of wasted chances, it’s not certain he would have saved the game for BVB.
Schalke’s best chance early on was a powerful Benedikt Höwedes header which scuffed just over the bar. Höwedes, incidentally, spent most of the game in a rather charmingly bizarre headdress of bandages after enduring a collision on a header. He also formed a strong partnership with Kyriakos Papadopoulos in the center of Schalke’s defense and despite Dortmund’s clear dominance, together they helped ensure the scoreboard remained empty for 90 minutes. One of Schalke’s best players was Lewis Holtby, returned from his successful loan to Mainz 05, who ran tirelessly and especially on one occasion made a brilliant solo run through several players before finally being cut off by Felipe Santana. Schalke had perhaps the best chance of the game late in the second half, after a Raul pass found Jan Moravek, who had just come on for an invisible Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and Moravek fired a shot from close range that was narrowly denied by Roman Weidenfeller. In general, Schalke were far less threatening than Dortmund and especially towards the end showed little urgency in attack.
Schalke were certainly the happier of the two sides when the whistle blew for full time. Penalties have become something of a bogey man for Dortmund; they managed to miss all five of their penalties last season. Nevertheless, that streak was broken when Gündogan stepped up and calmly slotted his kick past Fährmann. Successful penalties followed from Holtby, Hummels, and Edu. But Großkreutz, perhaps feeling the stress too acutely as a lifelong Dortmund fan against hated rival Schalke, took a poor penalty that Fährmann saved. Höwedes stepped up and made no mistake, young Moritz Leitner kept Dortmund in the game, and Jose Jurado got a little carried away but kept his kick just under the cross bar. Then Ivan Perisic, a promising new signing, took another poor penalty that Fährmann was again able to save, and the Supercup was lifted by Schalke 04, but not before Fährmann was lifted on the shoulders of his grateful teammates. Neuer who?
If nothing else, this match was a delightful tease of what is to come when the Bundesliga kicks off in two weeks. Dortmund can be happy with much of what they showed on the park, though of course finishing more of the many chances they create remains a necessary improvement. Schalke were less impressive but have some bright young talents alongside the seasoned Raul and should be able to better their 14th place finish last season. The Revierderby bragging rights remain in Gelsenkirchen for now, but soon the real season begins and the all-important table will begin to take shape. In the meantime, I’m sure Schalke won’t mind polishing their shiny new trophy.
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