Borussia Dortmund and Schalke played possible the greatest Ruhr derby ever yesterday as the teams played out an enthralling 4-4 draw after Dortmund went in at half time with a 4-0 lead. Schalke came into this tie with the second best defensive record in the league behind Bayern Munich. Also, despite the string start from Dortmund in the league, they seem to have lost their way under Bosz and came into the tie behind Schalke in the table and on the back of a loss against Tottenham in the Champions League, effectively sealing their exit from the competition.
This comeback from Schalke is sure to go down as one of the best matches in the history of the Ruhr Derby and football as a whole as the team showed great character and spirit to score four second half goals and come away from the Westfalenstadion with a point.
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Borussia Dortmund (3-4-2-1/3-4-1-2) Manager: Peter Bosz
1.Weidenfeller- 36.Toprak 25.Sokratis 29.Schmelzer- 22.Pulisic 8-Sahin 33-Weigl 13-Guerreiro- 9-Yarmolenko 10-Gotze- 17-Aubameyang
Schalke (3-4-3/ 3-5-2) Manager: Domenico Tedesco
1.Fahrmann- 17.Stambouli 29.Naldo 20.Kehrer- 18.Caligiuri 2.McKennie 7.Meyer 24.Ockzipa- 9-Di Santo 19.Burgstaller 11.Konoplyanka
The opening stages of the game:
For all the criticism that Peter Bosz has endured for having been too stubborn to stick with the 4-3-3, he finally did budge and his team playing a variant between a 3-4-2-1 and a 3-5-2. One noticeable change in role was that of Christia Pulisic’s as the youngster was tasked playing in the right wing back role. The intentions of switching to a back three and also play Julian Weigl and Nuri Sahin might have been to add stability to Dortmund’s build up, something which they have lacked incredibly in recent games.
To analyse a game in which there was a lot of chaos and turnovers is quite difficult. The opening few minutes of the game saw Schalke press high up the field with the intention of not allowing Dortmund to progress cleanly with the ball. Burgstaller and Di Santo formed the first line of defense for Schalke when they pressed high in Dortmund’s half. The ball near side midfielder in the midfield three( Konoplyanka on the left and McKennie on the right) moved up to press the ball carrier whenever Sokratis played it to Schmelzer or Toprak at the back.
This was effective in tampering with Dortmund’s rhythm, as they could not string passes together and build momentum for the first ten minutes with Schlake committing a number of fouls when a player got away.
Dortmund started to exploit the shape from Schalke as they dropped off once the BVB defenders could reach the middle third with the ball. This meant that the runners off the ball could find space down the sides of the Schalke midfield and receive the ball to make a telling progression into the final third.
Notice here how Konoplyanka comes to close down Toprak. The reaction is suboptimal and also opens the lane to Yarmolenko who played very centrally than his usual self in this setup.
Dortmund scored their first goal in the 12th minute as Aubameyang could find more space in between the lines due to the staggered positioning of Gotze on the left side. Also, the presence of Yarmolenko in the center and not as a wide man ensured that one of the defenders at the back had to cover him when he occupied the center. This meant that quick combination play down the left from Guerreiro, Gotze and Aubameyang created an opening on the right side for the onrushing Pulisic, who was instructed to provide width on the far side when the overload was on the left.
An own goal from Benjamin Stambouli and an excellent counter that ended with Aubameyang crossing for Gotze made it three for Dortmund as Schalke had no idea what hit them. Time and again though, Schalke could not handle the presence of Aubameyang in particular, who was positioned between the lines to link play. With Yarmolenko being a willing runner off the ball and Gotze popping up to offer himself, Schalke were blown away by Dortmund as they raced to a 4-0 lead.
The ability of a player like Weigl to break the lines proved to be dangerous as this took out the entirety of the Schalke midfield. Quick combinations between Aubameyang and Yarmolenko helped Dortmund create a number of openings in the first quarter of the game.
Todesco changes it around:
On the 33rd minute, Domenico Tedesco brought in Leon Goretzka for McKennie and Amine Harit in the place of Franco Di Santo as he looked to change the system and try to bring on a bit of stability before half time to keep his team in the match. The change also meant that Goretzka could direct face the left half space from Dortmund, which they had completely dominated until that point.
The shape now resembled a typical 3-4-3 and was not asymmetrical as when Di Santo was on. This helped with better coverage for Schalke and also meant that the pairing of Meyeer and Goretzka could control the midfield now, with the duo having a far better understanding between each other.
Schalke started the second half strongly and could approach the game with a fresh start. The presence of Harit and Konoplaynka helped Schalke have the presence out wide and stretch Dortmund’s defense. A major factor that helped Schalke dominate the proceedings in the second half was the dropping off by the Dortmund players. Also the positioning of the wing backs Pulisic and Guerreiro in build-up made the shape a back five even during possession. In fact, it resembled more of a lopsided back four with the ball near wing back dropping very deep to receive the ball rather than stay high up the pitch. This difference was very telling with regards to Pulisic as he was a good outlet down the right for Dortmund in the first half and his staggered positioning helped Aubameyang run down the channels.
Another key factor that helped Schalke with their attacks was the off the ball movement from Goretzka. He could find himself in between the lines and also making late runs into the box. These late runs caused a lot of confusion for the Dortmund defenders as no one picked him up. Weigl and Sahin now had to deal with the advanced positioning of the two Schalke central midfielders and were tied down. Amine Harit was left free and he caused the damage on the counters with his direct running. He also scored the second goal after Schalke started winning the ball off Dortmund in their own half. Konoplyanka and Harit offered the new dimension for Schalke which was missing in the first half and this troubled Dortmund.
Changes from Bosz and the Aubameyang red card:
Peter Bosz identified that Pulisic and Guerreiro were being pinned back and the centre backs had trouble dealing with Burgstaller’s movement. He responded by bringing in Bartra for Yarmolenko and switching to a back four, after Schalke scored their goal. This gave Dortmund some breathing space as this freed up Guerriero on the left flank and BVB had a few counters of their own. However, the turning point of the match was the red card for Aubameyang which he picked up for a very unavoidable second yellow.
The red card was a massive psychological blow and the Dortmund players started wilting under the pressure. A third goal meant that it was backs against the wall for Dortmund in the last few minutes and despite bringing on Zagadou, they could not stop Naldo equalising in the 95th minute.
All in all, this was a top class match that should be viewed to experience the entire emotions attached with it. There were a lot of individual and collective mistakes in the match that ensured for great viewing, something that you generally do not associate Bundesliga with. Peter Bosz should be under heavy pressure after this match, if he was not already as this is a massive blow for the Dutch manager. Only time will tell as to how long he remains in his job.
Credit must be given to Domenico Tedesco for doing a great job with Schalke and ensuring that his team came back against all odds to get a point against their fierce rivals after being four goals down at half time.