Borussia Dortmund and Schalke show why Ruhr derby is Germany’s real classic

For a while now, 'Der Klassiker' has been held up as Germany's biggest game. But a Ruhr derby that had just about everything threw the form book - and logic - out of the window and proved that this is the real deal.
Fußball Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Schalke 04 (picture-alliance/dpa/G. Kirchner)
"That’s brave," one Dortmund fan said to his friend outside the Westfalenhallen, near Signal Iduna Park, before Saturday's 4-4 draw. They were looking at a group of Schalke fans who had briefly walked through a large crowd of Dortmund supporters before breaking off into the away section.
With one win in their last nine games and their head coach seemingly on the brink, thoughts of a Borussia Dortmund victory would have seemed equally brave at that point.
But derbies are different. They mean more. They are the reason why a yellow mist descended on the stadium ahead of the game and the reason why Borussia Dortmund were initially aggressive, ruthless and dominant in a way that echoed performances under their previous head coach. 
Derbies mean more
Local rivalry is also why the foundations of the stadium shook after the first goal, and why the Südtribune spilled out in fury at the end of the game, dumbfounded at what they had just seen. Their team needed just 25 minutes to win this derby – and just 33 minutes to lose it. It was a remarkable performance from Peter Bosz’s side – in both senses of the word.
From Nuri Sahin’s first pump to the Yellow Wall before he cleared a Schalke corner to Mario Götze’s header to finish off an incredible counterattack for the third goal, Dortmund were superb early on. All the fight, all the aggression, all the execution that had been missing for the past few weeks had returned.
But it wasn't there to stay. In the same jaw-dropping way Dortmund blew Schalke away, they fell apart the moment Amine Harit scored the visitors' second.
A game for Germany
The Ruhr derby is the game that represents German football at its best – and Saturday’s edition of the fixture was further proof of that. In the 11-minute spell in the second half that saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sent off and Roman Weidenfeller make an incredible reflex save, Dortmund went from comfortable to crumbling.
Derbies are never just won – they are earned – and Schalke won this one even though the points were shared.
Rather than going for vulnerable Dortmund’s jugular in the opening exchanges, Schalke allowed their hosts to do what they do best and get on the front foot. But after that shambolic start, Domenico Tedesco did what he does best and adapted. Two substitutions after the fourth goal and one at the start of the second half changed Schalke. They turned chaos into momentum and after Daniel Caligiuri's brilliant individual goal closed the gap to one, Schalke's away support were singing of how they were the best side in the region. Then Naldo scored a 94th-minute equalizer to give their words more weight.
Daniel Caligiuri celebrates his goal for Schalke against Dortmund (Getty Images/Bongarts/C. Koepsel)
Daniel Caligiuri's third craked up the pressure on Dortmund
Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund has been the Bundesliga's marquis rivalry in recent years. The two clubs are the country’s top two teams but, from budgets to cities, the pair contrast starkly both on and off the pitch.
A match that had it all
The Ruhr derby is a contest based more on shared identity and history. One that has given us Jens Lehmann scoring a last-minute winner, Batman and Robin masks and now this – a thrilling game with two contrasting halves, a draw that feels like a victory to one team and defeat to another.
It had brawls at fulltime as tension spilled over, eight goals and was the first time a Bundesliga side had come from 4-0 down to get a result since 1976. It had Peter Bosz repeating the words 'this can’t happen' afterwards like he was in a trance, and Domenico Tedesco admitting he hadn't believed they would turn it around at the break.
It had everything. Derbies are different – and this was further proof that this one is Germany’s biggest fixture.
Borussia Dortmund and Schalke show why Ruhr derby is Germany’s real classic Borussia Dortmund and Schalke show why Ruhr derby is Germany’s real classic Reviewed by Alexander Von Stern on 00:26:00 Rating: 5