Marcel Schmelzer, Dortmund collapse in derby; UCL hopes now in jeopardy
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Borussia Dortmund's Champions League ambitions are in peril after Sunday's 2-0 defeat to bitter foes Schalke 04 in the Revierderby. An announced 61,786 spectators at the Veltins Arena did not see a high-quality game of football even though it was second against third with teams lurking for their rivals to make a mistake.
It was the visitors who complied, as BVB captain Marcel Schmelzer lost the ball to Daniel Caligiuri in the 50th minute. Yevhen Konoplyanka finished off Schalke's attack with a powerful strike to give the home side a vital lead. The Black and Yellows did not find a response in the remaining 40 minutes against Schalke's well-organised defence. In the 82nd minute, Naldo's bullet free kick put a seal on the game.
BVB plummet to fourth place behind Bayer Leverkusen with four games remaining.
In one of the most uninspiring derby losses in recent times, there is nothing positive to find.
Overall, it was not a great advert for the Bundesliga. The sides were uninspired, and neither managed to find solutions on the ball. Dortmund once again confirmed the impression they have left far too often this season in games where it really mattered. They not only lack the ideas to unlock opponents despite their talent, but also the fighting spirit.
Schalke's pressing was triggered several times in the first half when Schmelzer received the ball from Omer Toprak, putting the left-back in all sorts of trouble as at least one blue shirt ran at him at full speed. The 30-year-old revealed after the game that is was BVB's plan to play behind the pressing line, which begs the question why a technically limited player like him was tasked with such a move in the first place. Ultimately, the hosts paid the price for their naive plan.
To add insult to injury, Michy Batshuayi had to be carried off on a stretcher in stoppage time after rolling his left ankle in a challenge with Benjamin Stambouli. The striker left the stadium on crutches, and it is unclear whether he can help his team for the remainder of the season with alternatives scarce up front .
Manager rating out of 10
2 -- Peter Stoger's counterpart Domenico Tedesco was celebrating in the stands after the game. Meanwhile, Stoger's promise to find creative solutions on the field was not fulfilled.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 -- Steered Alessandro Schopf's powerful shot from distance around the post with a fingertip save in the first half. Was without a chance for either goal.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 3 -- Is not physically equipped for a derby anymore.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 3 -- Was part of the error-chain that led to Schalke's first goal.
DF Omer Toprak, 6 -- A lone bright spot in Dortmund's defence, but his passes lacked pace.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 2 -- Was correctly identified as BVB's weak spot by Schalke. Lost the ball ahead of Schalke's first goal and was guilty og the free kick that put the nail in the coffin.
MF Nuri Sahin, 3 -- Stoger justified Sahin's start by alluding to his passing game and strategic prowess. It didn't show, however.
MF Mahmoud Dahoud, 4 -- Had a few bright moments but couldn't find the killer ball.
MF Christian Pulisic, 5 -- After a tame first half, Pulisic broke loose on the right side in the second half. His crosses into the box created the biggest threat for Schalke.
MF Marco Reus, 5 -- Linked up well with Pulisic in the latter stages of the game but showed little for a player of his kind. Had his best moments on the wing as the centre was too congested.
MF Maximilian Philipp, 3 -- Was subbed off at half-time without having made much of an impact in the attacking department.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 2 -- Was rarely involved. When he was, his layoffs were poor and killed momentum. His injury may put Dortmund in serious trouble for the four games.
MF Andre Schurrle, 3 -- Was subbed on in the second half only to disappoint like the rest of his teammates.
MF Jadon Sancho, NR -- Replacing Dahoud in the 79th minute, Sancho managed to add a creative dynamic to BVB's midfield but it was game over three minutes later.
MF Mario Gotze, NR -- Looked bright in the final four minutes of his garbage-time cameo.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.