Analysis – Schalke Rule the Ruhr After Win Against Borussia Dortmund

Schalke pulled off the double against their regional rivals by winning the 142nd Revierderby 2-1. Goals from Julian Draxler and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in the first half overcame a visibly fatigued Dortmund side that were outplayed despite Robert Lewandowski’s goal in the second half.

The win was Schalke’s 400th home win in the Bundesliga and lifts them into the final Champions League spot for the time being while Dortmund continue to struggle following matches in Europe.  After an extended slump Schalke have now won three straight and are unbeaten in their last five competitive matches.

Team lineups courtesy of spox.com
Team lineups courtesy of spox.com

Draxler the King of the Ruhrpott

No shortage of motivation is ever needed in this heated derby.  With Dortmund winning the last two games at Schalke, Jens Keller’s men wanted to avoid losing three straight derbies at home for the first time in almost 50 years.  Although the home side were without midfield enforcer Jermaine Jones due to suspension they were the more aggressive and energized side in the and controlled the game for the majority of the first half.

Julian Draxler, who has taken his game to a new level in his new central role, opened the scoring in the 12th minute.  Uchida and Farfan, who piled on Dortmund’s left side all game long, did well to set up Draxler 14 meters outside the box which the 19-year-old finished superbly with his first touch.  It was his 10th goal in all competitions this season and in his 100th competitive game for the club, no player has ever reached that mark at such a young age.

Klopp’s changes and Schalke’s right side decide the game

Jürgen Klopp decided to rest Marco Reus and Felipe Santana for this game and started Kevin Grosskreutz and Mats Hummels instead, two decisions that hurt the team more than it benefitted them in the end. As mentioned before, Dortmund’s left is where the majority of Schalke’s attacks were created, including the two that led to their goals.  Jefferson Farfan and Uchida had a combined 125 touches on the ball, the team’s highest along with Roman Neustädter.  Farfan won an incredible 21 duels throughout the game compared to Grosskreutz’s four before he was taken off.

Hummels, who was still battling illness, struggled at the back and along with Grosskreutz, was replaced at halftime.  The inclusion of Reus and Nuri Sahin in the second half put a spring in Dortmund’s step and that’s how they clawed their way back into the game.  Reus set up Lewandowski’s goal before the hour mark.  It was Lewandowski’s seventh consecutive Bundesliga match in which he scored, a feat that overtakes Dortmund’s legendary Timo Konietzka’s six straight back in the mid-1960’s.

Despite their surge, Schalke defended well and had a good enough grip on the game to see out the result.  Joel Matip and Marco Höger did brilliantly to block the channels and anticipated a lot of the passes that went astray from the champions.  Dortmund struggled to carry the ball forward in the quick manner they usually do.  Whether it was because of the midweek match against Shakhtar or lapses in concentration, they were sloppy in possession and careless with some of their defensive positioning.

Dortmund continued to get into the game initially by pushing Grosskreutz and Blaszczykowski forward but by doing so, neglected the space left behind them after losing the ball. Usually so quick to recover and make up lost ground, both Dortmund wingers left their fullbacks with too much defensive work and Schalke did very well to take advantage.  From beginning to end, Schalke created opportunity after opportunity on the break and were unlucky not to score on more than one occasion.

In a way, both teams struggled with the same problems.  Dortmund had difficulties in slowing the tempo and getting a foothold in the match in the first half and Schalke couldn’t impose themselves fully and close out the game earlier.  That said, they were more organized, aggressive at the beginning and defended better overall.  Höwedes and Matip were superb at the back while Hummels and Subotic looked shaky and lost a lot of the headers they are normally so dominant with.

Schalke Revitalized and Dortmund struggle with consistency

How quickly things can change.  Only four weeks ago Schalke were in a three month long slump, lost one of their most influential players in Lewis Holtby and seemed to be out of the race for Europe completely.  Five games without a loss later and the team are finally hitting their stride again.  The day started the best way possible for Schalke by announcing a contract extension for captain Benedikt Höwedes and finished with a big win against their bitter rivals.

Dortmund on the other hand dropped points after a European fixture for the fifth time this season.  Before the Shakhtar game the topic of squad depth came up and that’s still something the team can improve upon but not necessarily the reason they lost this game. In the Hinrunde, Klopp’s surprising tactical experimentation arguably cost Dortmund the game and this time it has to be said that his decision-making once again had undesirable consequences.  Fortunately for Dortmund, Leverkusen too dropped points in their fixture and remain in second place as a result but Klopp has to find the right balance between getting results in both Europe and in the league going forward.

Header courtesy of dpa, Friso Gentsch

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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