Dortmund 0-0 Schalke: Dortmund dominate but Neuer produces superb display to keep them out

February 4, 2011

The starting line-ups

Dortmund had all the chances but somehow failed to score.

Jurgen Klopp made one enforced change. Neven Subotic was suspended, so Felipe Santana made his first start since last March.

Felix Magath made various changes – Peer Kluge, Atsuto Uchida and Lukas Schmiz all returned, with little impact upon Schalke’s usual shape.

The first ten minutes of the game actually turned out to be Dortmund’s best period. They had four decent opportunities, with Schalke struggling to get the ball out of their own half. It seemed only a matter of time before the home side went ahead.

Dortmund start brilliantly

Schalke’s midfield was terribly disorganised in the first half. Their formation looked like a cross between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-2-2, and it wasn’t immediately clear what the defensive roles of their wide players were supposed to be. Jefferson Farfan and Jose Manuel Jurado played very high up the pitch and left a lot of space between the lines that Dortmund constantly exploited. In particular, Jurado drifted inside and didn’t track back, which meant that Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek doubled up to overwhelm Schmitz down Schalke’s right.

Both Dortmund full-backs got forward in the opening stages, allowing the wide players inside. Dortmund’s movement was excellent – both from the attackers and from deeper on the pitch – the two holding midfielders took it in turns to venture forward, and even Mats Hummels brought the ball out of the back to provide some level of attacking threat.

Discipline

Dortmund were also superior defensively. Blaszczykowski and Kevin Grosskreutz got back to form two banks of four, and with Farfan and Jurado coming inside, Dortmund themselves ended up with a narrow midfield in the defensive phase. They broke up attacks well, but narrowness meant that their usual counter-attacking style was compromised – transitions from defence to attack were more difficult, as there was no natural width to stretch the play and exploit space.

In fact, Schalke were more often opened up in the centre of the pitch after Dortmund had built up play gradually. Kluge got sucked into battles high up the pitch and Anthony Annan became exposed in front of the back four. That back four looked out of shape and on a couple of occasions the full-backs were deeper than the centre-backs, with Barrios making dangerous runs in behind.

Schalke also gave the ball away too readily. Neuer – whilst being clear man of the match for a succession of superb saves – attempted ambitious long throws and gave the ball back to Dortmund immediately. Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar put the work in to close down from the front, but often did so 40 metres ahead of the rest of the side, and Dortmund played around them easily.

Second half

For the second half, Schalke’s midfield was far better without the ball – much deeper, in more of a clear ‘four’ across the pitch. They broke up Dortmund’s attacks quicker and tracked their full-backs well, and suddenly Dortmund didn’t look so comfortable in possession. They still created chances, but Barrios wasted a couple of promising opportunities, and a couple of times made the wrong run to meet balls from the midfielders.

Midway through the second half Schalke came into the game, creating a couple of chances themselves. Despite this, Magath made little attempt to go for the win and made defensive-minded substitutions. Kyriakos Papadopoulos (more of a centre-back than a holding midfielder) came on for Annan, whilst Hao Junmin came on for Jurado to sit solidly ahead of Schmitz. Schalke’s new golden boy Julian Draxler got just three minutes of action.

Robert Lewandowski replaced Grosskreutz to inject some new drive into Dortmund’s attack, but tactically things changed little throughout the game. The best chance fell to Mario Gotze who made darting runs past Barrios throughout, but he swivelled and turned a shot onto the post having rounded Neuer.

Conclusion

Dortmund failed to make their early dominance count because of both poor shooting and brilliant goalkeeping. They exploited theĀ flimsiness of Schalke’s midfield by getting their three attackers between the lines and by getting their full-backs into attacking positions, but simply couldn’t put the finishing touches on moves.

Schalke were dreadful early on, but Magath adjusted well at half time to shut up shop, and the game was much more even in the second period.

Dortmund 0-0 Schalke: Dortmund dominate but Neuer produces superb display to keep them out

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