No doubt Thomas Tuchel had Liverpool in mind when he picked his team for the match against Schalke, that seems to have been the general consensus anyway. It’s also probably recognition of the fact that the Bundesliga title race is all but wrapped up by now. No team has ever overcome such a gap in the last four weeks of the season and Bayern seem unlikely to drop any points between now and then. With that in mind it seemed Dortmund were putting all their eggs into the Europa league basket so to speak. If that’s the case it’s a move which didn’t quite work out, in more ways than one. They did get a point at Schalke which is in all honesty a fair result but resting the number of players they did turned out to make no difference in the end as regards the Europa league.
The first half was largely uneventful for both sides, though overall Schalke had a few more chances. Dortmund’s best chance came in the 22nd minute for Christian Pulisic, he had just the keeper to beat but his shot went just wide. The second half things got better and fast. A fact which most likely had a lot to do with the appearance of Henrikh Mhkitaryan who replaced Mats Hummels at the start of the second half. Whatever the reasons anyway the game started to liven up and in the 49th minute Dortmund took the lead through a cheeky little goal from Kagawa. It was one of those goals which impressed everyone, even Thomas Tuchel. It was just perfect, both the lay-off from Moritz Leitner and the goal itself. Schalke had an answer almost immediately however because just three minutes later Leroy Sane pulled them level. After a largely dull first half it was a very lively and entertaining start to the second half. And things were about to get even better, not to mention stranger. Matze Ginter is becoming quite the derby expert. He scored in the reverse of the fixture too, back in November. Though his goal then was a lot more straightforward than this one. This time it was a deflection from a free kick which somehow landed perfectly for him to head into the net. Strangely enough Shinji Kagawa scored the first goal in that game too. Unfortunately for Dortmund that wasn’t the end of the goals, their lead lasted all of ten minutes. Sokratis was a bit unlucky to give the penalty away, I don’t know if it was a penalty or not. One commentator says no, the other says yes. I’d say it wasn’t but then I have to admit I’m slightly biased. If it was a penalty than Sokratis is at least lucky he only got a yellow card, since Ginter was covering Hunterlaar too, otherwise it would have been a red. Either way Hunterlaar had no problem converting said penalty, thus once again leveling the score. Despite Thomas Tuchel sending on an extra sharpshooter in the form of Aubaymeyang 2-2 is how it ended. Though not without a few more tussles and a couple more yellow cards, including one for Belhanda for elbowing Matze Ginter in the face.
Friday night saw another 2-2 draw and one which was an extremely surprising result. I know it’s not uncommon for a team who’ve sacked a coach and brought in a new (in this case temporary) one to benefit from a false revival of sorts but I didn’t think such a thing could or would happen to H96. Nor did I think Hertha would be in any danger of dropping points against them. Elsewhere in the relegation battle fellow strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt and Bremen both lost, both of them in a somewhat cruel fashion. Late goals it seems are becoming a feature for Hoffenheim under new coach Julian Nagelsmann. For once Bayern provided the entertaining game of the weekend, usually it’s their game which is a little dull to watch and Dortmund that provide the fun. Not so this time around, Bayern’s defeat of Stuttgart was plenty to fun to watch and the 3-1 scoreline flattered them a little in fact. Stuttgart may still be close to getting entangled in the relegation battle but they certainly gave Bayern a run for their money.