Schalke picked up a point at Dortmund on Saturday night, and showed why there's real reason to believe the revolution that was expected over the summer has now finally arrived.
First it was on, then it was off and now, after seven games unbeaten and a battling display away at bitter Ruhr rivals Borussia Dortmund, Schalke's revolution appears to have arrived. Evidence of why Schalke have genuine reason to believe that the bad start is behind them was on show in the first part of Germany's biggest grudge match as Markus Weinzierl's touch on the team grows clearer. A glance at the fixture list up until the winter break does nothing but support the fact Schalke's time is now.
In the belly of the yellow-and-black cauldron, Schalke looked superbly compact. Naldo, Matija Nastasic and Benedikt Höwedes were solid as a back three and, as Weinzierl said before the game, it's a formation they now feel comfortable in. Everyone on the Schalke team were committed out of possession and sensible with the ball. Only when Dortmund applied the pressure in the second half did the ball start to be cleared long, but on the whole Schalke played their way out effectively.
No one embodied this better than Sead Kolasinac. The Bosnian tackled hard all game (overly so the first time around), winning 67 percent of his tackles and all of his headers. He set the tone for his side's commitment and even popped up in attack as well. His block on the line in the second half denied Dortmund a seemingly certain goal and was the highlight of an outstanding performance. He celebrated it with fists raised too, showing he is the kind of character that many felt this team lacked (other than Höwedes and Ralf Fährmann).
As a result of this defensive stability, Schalke were able to pick their moments in attack and had they shown a bit more composure, they might have even taken the lead too. But they never flooded forward so as to be exposed on the break themselves, which left little space for Dortmund's creative attackers to take advantage of. They ended the first half with four shots to Dortmund's none.
When Ousmane Dembele hit the bar, Schalke started to wobble and in the end, Dortmund will feel it was two points dropped more than one gained. Mario Götze's solo effort harked back to years gone by and then Pulisic nearly had his name all over the sports pages across the pond. And while luck and poor Dortmund form plays a part, so does Schalke's solid performance.
They held on when previously they would have crumbled and picking up a point against not only your archrivals but also against the side that spent big on attackers this summer is a huge step in the right direction for the team from Gelsenkirchen. The scenes at the end of the game showed just that. While Dortmund's players applauded in front of the Südtribüne, Schalke's were dancing and singing in front of the away end. Schalke had won, and both they and their hosts knew it.
Re-live the drama of the derby below: