The Revierderby, played out at Signal Iduna Park over the weekend, is Germany’s hottest derby and Sunday’s fixture did not disappoint.
‘Der Klassiker’, contested between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, is widely accepted as the best quality game the Bundesliga can conjure up.
But a derby born from on-pitch competitiveness and relative domination over other sides in the league can barely match the fierce passion of geographical derbies.
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The Ruhr Valley’s largest outfits, Dortmund and Schalke 04, clashed in a game that lived up to expectations other high-profile clashes fail to reach.
Dortmund prevail in exciting encounter
The first 2015/16 Revierderby ended in a pulsating 3-2 win for BVB in game that, in all honestly, should not have finished so close.
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Shinji Kagawa’s first-half header put Dortmund ahead from some great work by Matthias Ginter and after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar hit back almost immediately, Ginter turned scorer as he guided home Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s corner.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a third – his 14th of an incredible season – to extend their lead after the break as Dortmund asserted their dominance.
But they failed to turn supremacy into goals, finding Ralf Fahrmann in inspired form in front of the Kop end, before Huntelaar’s second made it a nervy finish.
Hummels errors make it unnecessarily nervy for Dortmund
The post-match statistics – 14 shots to Schalke’s nine, 674 passes in 63% of overall possession - reflected Dortmund’s dominance over the contest, but individual errors must be a concern for Thomas Tuchel.
A lapse in concentration from Mats Hummels allowed Leroy Sané to counter-attack minutes after Kagawa’s opener and fellow centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos was far too late to cover, though, Hummels’ initial mistake was to blame.
The pair slipped up again. 3-1 up and peppering Fahrmann in the opposition goal, Hummels lost out in midfield and from the resulting counter, Sokratis missed a routine clearance and Huntelaar finished sublimely.
Dortmund played out the remaining 19 minutes with few issues, but the sloppy play allowed Schalke a route back into the contest when the Yellow Submarine looked to have shut them off completely.
Hummels' recent form has been a concern for Tuchel as too many individual errors have crept into the German international’s game.
Against Werder Bremen in their previous Bundesliga game, the 26-year-old stepped out of position too soon and Bremen played around him for Anthony Ujah to slot home. Before that, Raul Bobadilla outmuscled him in the air as Augsburg scored a consolation in a 5-1 thrashing.
Tuchel’s men have 12 points from four matches since their Allianz Arena drubbing, but they must aim to tighten up on individual mistakes.
Young guns continue to carry Schalke's under performers
For Schalke, Fahrmann’s outstanding second half performance drew many plaudits and rightly so.
The stopper pulled off three spectacular saves as Schalke’s defence was opened up by Dortmund’s impressive attacking quintet.
But the grim realisation for Die Königsblauen is they are carrying too many experienced players who should be pulling their weight a whole lot more.
For all their endeavor, they are not ready to succeed Dortmund as the Bundesliga’s second best team.
Franco di Santo’s signing from Werder Bremen in the summer continues to prove a frustrating one; European form good, Bundesliga form shocking with no goals and just one assist.
So little is André Breitenreiter's faith in the Argentinian at the moment that when Schalke sought an equaliser, the manager partnered Sané with Huntelaar and left Di Santo on the right wing.
Huntelaar may have ended his domestic drought with two poachers’ finishes, but they were his first since mid-September vs Mainz, with the Blues relying largely on the young shoulders of Sane for goals in recent weeks.
Sane, Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer stepping up to the mark is a huge positive for Breitenreiter, dependent on whether he can fend off interest from bigger clubs both in Germany and abroad.
But until the likes of Di Santo are upgraded with improvements, or Huntelaar finds some sort of consistent form, Schalke will be stuck behind their fierce rivals.
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