Schalke were 4-0 down at the interval, seemingly finished and eager for damage limitation. Leon Goretzka and Amine Harit were introduced prior to the half’s conclusion with both proving pivotal in helping to spark an unlikely comeback during the season’s first Revierderby.
It was a fast-paced start to proceedings at the Signal Iduna Park, with both sides eager to assert their dominance early on.
Weston McKennie set the tone for Schalke’s aggressive stance out of possession and earned a yellow card after a late challenge just two minutes in.
Tackles were flying and the intensity continued to grew, especially after the hosts broke the deadlock in the 12th minute.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bundled home from close-range after a well-worked move fell to the Gabon forward at the far post. His initial effort was blocked by Ralf Fahrmann before sliding across to finish – though replays showed he handled it with the final touch, so the goal itself should have been disallowed.
But it just propelled Dortmund forward even further. Benjamin Stambouli flicked an attempted cross beyond a helpless Fahrmann and BVB’s lead had doubled just like that.
It was not yet over. Dortmund’s constant wave of attacks proved too much to handle and within five minutes, a two-goal lead turned into four.
Schalke as a collective unit, started poorly. They looked shellshocked and defensively, all over the place as Dortmund raced ahead with an increasingly comfortable lead to their name.
Mario Gotze’s well-placed header and Raphael Guerreiro’s sweetly-struck volley ensured the hosts had a four-goal advantage within 25 minutes.
Schalke boss Domenico Tedesco, who has been praised for his early work this season since signing a two-year deal in June, needed to change something.
Dortmund supporters were bouncing. Their players were comfortable on the ball and playing with confidence, why not? Tedesco introduced both Goretzka and Harit for Franco di Santo and McKennie, who was on a tightrope following his earlier booking.
They did well to stem the flow of Dortmund’s attacks somewhat, instead making them focus on dealing with their threat defensively.
As the second-half began, there was a glimmer of unlikely hope for the visitors. If Schalke scored one, they could potentially continue to reduce the heavy deficit, giving Dortmund a problem to consider – which was always going to be intriguing given recent struggles that Peter Bosz has had to endure as BVB boss in recent months.
Poor officiating ensured the fast-paced tempo was frustratingly slow and progressive after the restart, which suited Schalke perfectly. Goretzka headed narrowly wide after making an intelligent run into the box, before Schalke finally pulled one back in the 60th minute.
By that time, they could have been even further behind. Fahrmann’s mistake in possession saw him slip and gift Aubameyang an opportunity to capitalise, though the Gabon international’s second touch allowed him enough time to recover accordingly and acrobatically thwart the 28-year-old in the face of serious embarrassment.
Naldo looked in disbelief after having a headed effort ruled out for offside, but Guido Burgstaller made no mistake – flicking his header over a helpless Weidenfeller after Benjamin Stambouli’s lofted pass saw him beat Sokratis in the air to the ball.
Just as the hosts had done in the first-half, Schalke struck again. Two goals in five minutes and suddenly, the entire complexion had changed. Yevhen Konoplyanka weaved his way beyond challenges before unleashing a teasing cross – one which Nuri Sahin and Weindenfeller both misjudged.
Harit, who was a tireless worker throughout, was on hand to calmly slam home from close-range. He ran to pick up the ball and while doing so, cameras focused on Tedesco. His response was fitting and showed this game was far from over. Wildly swinging his arms around to try and encourage his side to keep up their relentless momentum, he shared a brief embrace with the goalscorer before it was time to finish what they had started.
They would have been undoubtedly helped by the numerical advantage they were provided with 20 minutes to go, when Aubameyang was given his marching orders for a second yellow card after a needless but equally late tackle on Harit.
He could not really have many complaints with the decision and did not need to make the challenge either, which potentially could have left the 20-year-old with a serious injury afterwards.
Thankfully he was okay to continue, despite being continually targeted as Dortmund players were getting increasingly impatient with time passing.
With five minutes left, it got even more tense. Daniel Caligiuri danced his way beyond Dan-Axel Zagadou, before striking goalwards from a tough angle off-balance and watching the effort nestle into the top corner.
4-3 and Dortmund’s cushion had disintegrated just like that. They had lost their focal point in attack and struggled to keep possession for sustained periods too, with Schalke doing all they could to find the equaliser.
Seven minutes of stoppage time, read the fourth official’s electronic board. Konoplyanka’s in-swinging corner-kick delivery was on a silver platter for any team-mate to fashion another goalscoring chance.
Naldo and his 6ft 5in frame towering above the Dortmund players packed inside the area to head home, prompting raucous celebrations from the away faithful.
There was always hope that they could recover such a heavy deficit, if necessary changes were made quickly – Tedesco acknowledged he made mistakes with his team selection and wasn’t afraid to rectify it by making substitutions before half-time.
It allowed them an opportunity to assert some form of balance before the interval, while giving Dortmund something to think about.
Peter Bosz has been under an increasing level of scrutiny and the club’s form continues to worsen. Sure, they have been unlucky with injuries to key players – Marco Reus, Lukasz Piszczek and Erik Durm are just a few currently sidelined. However, the lack of a capability to adapt has been highlighted as a vulnerability that allows weaker sides to earn results they previously would struggle to in seasons gone by.
Their last league victory was a 2-1 away win at Augsburg, in the final week of September. Since, they have lost four and drawn twice, whilst their Champions League form has been underwhelming too – they are seemingly destined to drop down into the UEFA Europa League.
Questions continue to be asked and it’s increasing likely that things will get worse before they improve for BVB, while Schalke continue to embrace the honeymoon period in Tedesco’s reign.