Despite some success, the last two seasons have been difficult ones for Schalke fans. Within the last eighteen months, they’ve reached a Champions League Semi-Final and won the DFB-Pokal. Yet these achievements have been eclipsed significantly by the dominance of their arch-rivals, Borussia Dortmund.
With back-to-back Bundesliga titles, as well as a DFB-Pokal triumph, the Black and Yellows have outclassed all that have come before them. Ruhr rivals Schalke have been left firmly in their shadow, though Saturday’s Revierderby provided an opportunity to hurt their rivals. That’s something “fans” of both teams did quite literally with 200 arrested after clashes prior to kick off.
Scenes outside Signal Iduna Park were spectacular for all the wrong reasons with the police even using pepper spray and water cannons in an effort to break up the trouble. Scenes inside the stadium were to prove equally spectacular but this time for footballing reasons.
For the first time in over a year a side came to the Westfalenstadion and emerged victorious. Last time it was Hertha Berlin, a team who would go on to be relegated. This time around, and much more painfully for Borussia Dortmund, it was Schalke. And how sweet it was for the Royal Blues.
They were in control for much of the encounter and in recent times, controlling the play against Dortmund is just unheard of. With injuries to key players, Jürgen Klopp decided to gamble tactically by moving away from a 4231 formation. It backfired badly as Dortmund conceded within the opening quarter of an hour.
Schalke’s loan signing from Barcelona, Ibrahim Afellay, provided a touch of class synonymous with his parent club as the Dutchman volleyed in off the post. Klopp reverted back to the warm comforts of 4231 after half an hour but by then Dortmund were unsettled. Even if the odd chance came for the Champions, there wasn’t the usual conviction to their play.
Their rivals didn’t need any encouragement, doubling their lead early in the second half through some simple counter attacking play. Marco Höger was the beneficiary as he raced onto Lewis Holtby’s through ball, sending Roman Weidenfeller the wrong way with a calm finish.
That secured victory for Schalke, though it should have been more comfortable. Joel Matip somehow missed from a few yards at a corner which in turn encouraged Dortmund. Robert Lewandowski pulled one back for the Champions by flicking in Reus’s free kick. Yet even at two one down, the barrage of pressure you’d have expected never really arrived from the home side.
It completed a worrying display for Borussia Dortmund, left 12 points behind Bayern Munich after this latest setback. Even with eight games played, the title looks out of reach of the Champions. That’s both an indictment on how they’ve not matched the incredible standards they’ve set over the last two years and crucially how they lack the strength in depth which Bayern have proudly shown off so far. No team has ever come from 12 points down to win the Bundesliga. If Jürgen Klopp was to mastermind that, it would no doubt be his greatest title as a coach but that’s likely to stay as a distant fantasy.
Yet Huub Stevens side are in a position where thoughts of a title aren’t so unrealistic. Catching Bayern though even with a seven point gap looks a daunting prospect. Still, Saturday was important for the Royal Blues. Last season, they did not show up in any of the big Bundesliga games. They failed against Bayern in September too but finally, in their rivals’ back yard, Schalke did it.
It’s the sort of result which might persuade star player Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, in the final year of his contract, to sign an extension. Talks were said to have reached a standstill in September according to general manager Horst Heldt but Saturday showed the Royal Blues mean business this season.
Expectations are high at one of Germany’s biggest clubs but a first Bundesliga title is likely to prove elusive again this season. Still, the weekend’s result could well prove a watershed moment for Schalke, as they firmly stepped out of Borussia Dortmund’s shadow.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:
• Bayern Munich just keep chugging away at the top of the table. This week, they thrashed Fortuna Düsseldorf to set a new Bundesliga record for consecutive wins at the start of the season (8). Their closest rivals are still newly promoted Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles are five points behind after overcoming Hannover.
• Friday night can be a dreary experience for Bundesliga watchers. Hoffenheim and Greuther Fürth ensured it wasn’t this time around, serving up six goals in Sinsheim. It included three goals in the last 5 minutes and Fürth equalised with the final kick of the game. Cue coach Mike Büskens rushing immediately onto the field to celebrate with his team – only in the Bundesliga…
• Pressure continues to grow on Wolfsburg boss Felix Magath as the Wolves lost 2-0 at home to Freiburg. Disappointment is the overriding feeling at Gladbach too, as they were thrashed by Werder Bremen. And just as Hamburg looked to have turned a corner, they flattered to deceive, as Stuttgart sneaked a 1-0 win at the Imtech Arena. Elsewhere in mid-table, Bayer Leverkusen had to come from behind to secure a 2-2 draw with Mainz. Finally, Nuremberg and Augsburg played out a goalless draw on a sleepy Sunday afternoon.
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Matchday 8 Results:
Hoffenheim 3-3 Fürth
Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Mainz
Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Schalke
Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 Hannover
Fortuna Düsseldorf 0-5 Bayern Munich
Wolfsburg 0-2 Mainz
Werder Bremen 4-0 Gladbach
Nürnberg 0-0 Augsburg
Hamburg 0-1 Stuttgart
|1||FC Bayern Munich||8||8||0||0||26:2||+24||24||CL*|
|3||FC Schalke 04||8||5||2||1||17:8||+9||17||CL*|
|4||Borussia Dortmund||8||3||3||2||18:11||+7||12||CL* Qual.|
|5||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||8||3||3||2||13:11||+2||12||EL* Qual.|
|6||Hannover 96||8||3||2||3||16:13||+3||11||EL* Qual.|
|8||1. FSV Mainz 05||8||3||2||3||9:10||-1||11|
|9||SV Werder Bremen||8||3||1||4||14:13||+1||10|
|15||1. FC Nuremberg||8||2||2||4||7:14||-7||8|
Table thanks to Official Bundesliga Website