Saturday, October 1

Schalke get knocked down, but get up again to show they are no joke | Bundesliga


Yof you’ve got an early chance to nail your colors to the mast and make a good impression with your new fans, you have to take it – and that’s exactly what Nico Schlotterbeck did. Earlier this week, shortly after making his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund, the young Germany centre-back was a guest on a chat show on the club’s in-house television channel in front of a live audience.

The Sky presenter Sebastian Hellmann, Schlotterbeck’s fellow panellist, mentioned an upcoming assignment at Schalke’s game with Borussia Mönchengladbach, the Top-Spiel (top game) of the second weekend of the league season, in the prime Saturday early evening, 6.30pm kick-off slot. “They have Top-Spiel in Schalke?” Schlotterbeck wryly chipped in, naturally bringing the house down with a ribbing of BVB’s local rivals.

Schalke have received more than their share of digs in the last few years. It has been a steady slide downhill since Domenico Tedesco was fired after March 2019’s 7-0 Champions League (that’s right) defeat at Manchester City. Leroy Sané, a star pupil of the club’s vaunted academy, scored in that one, almost four years to the day after he’d scored for Die Königsblauen in a thrilling win at Real Madrid. The rest is the stuff of infamy – the inglorious David Wagner reign, the four-coach relegation season, even flirting with Tasmania Berlin’s 31-match record of Bundesliga games without a win (when Schalke beat Hoffenheim in January 2021 to avoid that, Tasmania were as relieved as they were).

Coming back was not easy. Even amid the joy and relief of promotion back to the Bundesliga at the first attempt, there was the prospect of more bills to pay. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Schalke felt compelled to cut ties with long-term sponsor Gazprom (Dortmund offered to donate and fill the financial gap). Meanwhile Dimitrios Grammozis, fired as coach in March with Schalke languishing in sixth, is still receiving his €1.2m salary, with the promotion secured by his immediate successor Mike Büskens triggering a year’s extension.

So they have an ex-coach they are paying more than their current coach, Frank Kramer (he earns €1m per season). They even pay Grammozis a bonus for every top-flight point they earn this term.

Saturday’s visit of Gladbach made it all worth it. Some 62,271 fans packed out Veltins-Arena, its first sellout in two-and-a-half years. Those supporters greeted their side with a teeming blue and white choreo and a banner reading “Hundertmal schon totgesagt und dann stehst du wieder auf” (“You’ve been declared dead a hundred times and then you get up again”). And how their team played out those words.

Marius Bülter celebrates after equalizing for Schalke against Gladbach in injury time. Photograph: Thilo Schmulgen/Reuters

Crowd favorite Rodrigo Zalazar, scorer of the goal that won promotion, got a first-half opener from range, but Schalke’s all-action tempo wore them out. Gladbach’s patient possession game won control, and goals from Jonas Hofmann and Marcus Thuram looked like spoiling the party. Enter Marius Bülter. When VAR confirmed Patrick Herrmann had handled in attempting to nod a cross clear in stoppage time, Bülter stepped up. He converted nervelessly, the supporters erupted and Schalke had a precious point.

“We will always have setbacks in the Bundesliga,” Kramer told Sky. “You have to get back up, and that’s what the team did today. That’s what fits the culture here and that’s what people want to see.” The new season has already given strong hints of a (necessary) siege mentality. A spirited performance in the opening-day defeat at Köln was undercut with a sense of injustice after a potential opening goal for Zalazar was ruled out, followed by Dominick Drexler’s red card. Both were probably correct, but borderline enough to create a grievance.

Here, goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow, felt to be a fairly good get on loan from Hertha, dropped a second ricket in as many weeks. Having presented Florian Kainz with the crucial second in last week’s loss, another handling error here allowed the revitalized Thuram to give Gladbach a lead that looked like being decisive. Yet Peter Knäbel, Schalke’s sporting director, moved quickly to shut down any speculation about Schwolow’s status when interviewed. “We’re not having a discussion about goalkeepers at all,” he emphasized.

Knäbel also acknowledged the gap between the first and second tier, not least athletically. Zalazar can’t yet last 90 minutes and Jordan Larsson, a bargain signing after his release from Spartak Moscow, will also need time to get match fit. In the meantime, those fans will carry them. “They sent out an acoustic force that could be understood as a signal: Schalke are back,” wrote Nils Balke-Barton in WAZ. They are aiming for survival this year, but Schalke’s presence is something the Bundesliga has missed.

Bayern 2-0 Wolfsburg, Mainz 0-0 Union Berlin, Schalke 2-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hertha Berlin 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim 3-2 VfL Bochum, Leverkusen 1-2 Augsburg, Leipzig 2-2 Cologne, Werder Bremen 2 -2 Stuttgart, Freiburg 1-3 Dortmund.

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Bayern 2-0 Wolfsburg, Mainz 0-0 Union Berlin, Schalke 2-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hertha Berlin 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt, Hoffenheim 3-2 VfL Bochum, Leverkusen 1-2 Augsburg, Leipzig 2-2 Cologne, Werder Bremen 2 -2 Stuttgart, Freiburg 1-3 Dortmund.

Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/AFP

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talking points

Bayern Munich and Dortmund both maintain their 100% records (they are the only two to have managed it), which they’ve arrived at in sharply contrasting ways. Bayern were once again imperious against one of their favorite opponents, Wolfsburg, who’ve had far worse visits to Allianz Arena than the 2-0 defeat on Sunday. “It was about administration,” said Julian Nagelsmann, who enjoyed the control of his side’s performance after the previous week’s explosiveness, “which we didn’t always do well last year.” It was a good afternoon for Thomas Müller in particular, who scored the second and got one over on Niko Kovac, the coach who almost pushed him to the Bayern exit door.

Thomas Müller acknowledges fans after the match.
Thomas Müller acknowledges fans after the match. Photograph: Andreas Gebert/Reuters

Having clung on grimly against Leverkusen last week, BVB came back late at Freiburg after taking an early pounding from the excellent hosts, who led through Michael Gregoritsch. Edin Terzic’s substitutes turned it around in the final quarter-hour – the 18-year-old Englishman Jamie Bynoe-Gittens got his debut senior goal with a well-hit long-ranger that Mark Flekken really should have saved, before fellow teenager Youssoufa Moukoko and Marius Wolf struck to win the match. Jude Bellingham, a comparative veteran at 19, hailed the impact of “my sons” on social media.

Youssoufa Moukoko celebrates scoring Dortmund's second goal.
Youssoufa Moukoko celebrates scoring Dortmund’s second goal. Photograph: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Leipzig hailed the return of Timo Werner, who looked a bit rusty but marked his comeback with the opener against Köln thanks to another generous bit of goalkeeping, with Marvin Schwäbe diving over his shot. Yet the hosts twice frittered away the lead, with Josko Gvardiol’s unfortunate own goal giving Steffen Baumgart’s team a point. Domenico Tedesco was pleased with his side’s grit despite still waiting for a first win. “A lot of teams that had to deal with what we did today would have lost,” argued the coach.

Leverkusen’s start has been worrying, with one of the favorites to grip Bayern’s coattails sitting bottom of the table having lost three competitive games out of three (when including the Pokal embarrassment at third-tier Elversberg). This weekend’s home loss to Augsburg was one of those afternoons in what’s been one of those seasons so far – Die Werkself have had their moments in all three matches – with Rafal Gikiewicz making a string of saves and Amine Adli fracturing his collarbone in his first game back after four months out for Gerardo Seoane’s side. André Hahn’s firmly finished winner provided a first win for the visitors’ rookie coach Enrico Maaßen – freshly arrived from Dortmund’s second team – after last week’s chastening Bundesliga debut defeat at home to Freiburg.


www.theguardian.com

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