Borussia Dortmund had not won a Bundesliga match in 56 days. It had not kept a clean sheet in 66. Through 45 minutes of the 151st Revierderby, it appeared to be on its way to snapping both of those skids.
Then everything went wrong. Terribly, horribly, catastrophically wrong. And a stunning Schalke performance gave the Ruhr one of its most memorable derbies ever.
BVB had been reeling, but a 4-0 halftime lead appeared to have alleviated all the pressure. Instead, it remained, and Dortmund buckled under it. The hosts crumbled in a disastrous second half that saw Schalke come back from four goals down to earn a famous 4-4 draw.
The derby had threatened to end the reign of Dortmund manager Peter Bosz after just a few months. It had threatened to turn worry into panic within a rabid fan base; to add local bragging rights to the list of things the club had lost over the past two months. In 13 first-half minutes, all those thoughts flew out the window. And then over 30 second-half minutes, they flooded back in excruciating fashion.
It was a classic “game of two halves.” Dortmund’s four-goal first-half flurry momentarily lifted the pressure. The hosts were equal parts impressive, fortunate and rampant.
They then regressed to their nervous, disheveled selves, and let their rivals back into the game. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second yellow card made for a tense final 18 minutes for Dortmund’s 10 men. Schalke’s third goal left it with five minutes, plus seven of stoppage time, to complete a stunning comeback. Naldo completed it with an emphatic 94th-minute header:
Bosz and Dortmund may rue the collapse for a long time. The first half might have signaled a rebirth. Bosz had introduced a new 3-4-2-1 formation that, at least on the surface, worked wonders for 45 minutes.
Dortmund began on the front foot in the 12th. Christian Pulisic had recovered from a muscle injury to start at right wing-back in the Dutch manager’s revamped system. The American teenager latched onto an overhit cross, and sent it back toward the center of the box. Nuri Sahin’s flick was bundled in by Aubameyang:
Replays showed that Aubameyang’s hand had helped the ball over the line. The video assistant referee declined to have his or her say.
Six minutes later, Benjamin Stambouli doubled Dortmund’s lead. Stambouli, of course, plays for Schalke. His own goal had the Westfalonstadion exploding with noise:
So a hand ball and an own goal. Surely things couldn’t get worse for Schalke. But they did. And more misfortune played its part.
As Yevhen Konoplyanka lunged for a second ball after a Schalke corner, he was blindsided by the referee. The ball made its way through to Andriy Yarmolenko, who released Aubameyang. Aubameyang drove down the right wing, drove a cross to the far post, and Mario Gotze buried a header:
Raphael Guerreiro struck a brilliant fourth in the 25th minute to seemingly send Dortmund roaring to victory:
There was no single turning point. But one of the many – and perhaps the first – came seven minutes after Dortmund’s fourth.
Domenico Tedesco, Schalke’s 32-year-old manager, made a 33rd-minute double substitution. He pulled off 19-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie – who had picked up an early yellow card, and teetered on the brink of a red – and striker Franco Di Santo in favor of Amine Harit and Leon Goretzka. He burned his third and final sub on center back Matija Nastasic at halftime. Afterward, Schalke was a different team.
In the second half, everything flipped on its head. Schalke sprinted into the ascendency. Dortmund held on for 15 scoreless minutes – but the fact that the hosts were already merely holding on was ominous. Naldo had a header correctly ruled out by the video assistant for offside.
But Guido Burgstaller got Schalke on the board in the 61st minute, and four minutes later, Harit really incited the comeback. When Aubameyang’s frustration boiled over in the 72nd, Dortmund was grasping for anything to grab onto to halt its free fall. It couldn’t find anything.
Daniel Caligiuri’s left-footed strike to make it 4-3 sent nerves into overdrive:
Finally, Naldo rose above a limp BVB defense to send Dortmund’s frustration to new heights.
He may very well have put Bosz out of a job, too. Dortmund hasn’t just slid from the top of the Bundesliga down to fourth, and already seemingly out of the title race. It has gone winless in the Champions League, stumbling to two draws with Cyprian minnows APOEL Nicosia. It has been defensively frail. It has been tactically reckless and overmatched.
Saturday magnified some of those failings. But more than anything else, it told of a club in quicksand. Bosz seems to be the captain of a sinking ship. And while a change at the helm might not save the season, it also might be the best option as Dortmund tries to do just that.
A 4-0 derby victory could have been a turning point. It could have lifted spirits and reversed fortunes. Instead, it crushed both. And Dortmund’s swoon is still ongoing.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.