Schalke and Dortmund were riding high after wins against Arsenal and Real Madrid in their previous Champions League matchups, which made the rematch draws more than satisfactory.
Both Schalke and Dortmund had a chance to more or less lock up their trip to the next round of the Champions League on Tuesday night with wins. Instead, the sides settled for 2-2 draws – Schalke against Arsenal, and Dortmund against Real Madrid. The single point was enough to leave both teams at the top of their groups, with their toughest opponents behind them.
Dortmund struck first in the hostile territory of Madrid's Bernabeu, with Robert Lewandowski leaping high in the air to head a pass toward Marco Reus, who took the ball up the right side of the area and fired past Real keeper Iker Casillas in the 26th minute.
Real did not hesitate long to even the score. Eight minutes later, German international Mesut Özil fired a perfectly-placed cross toward Pepe in front of the Dortmund goal. Keeper Roman Weidenfeller was helpless as Pepe connected for the header to even the score at 1-1.
It looked as if the teams would head into the locker room even, but the final play of the half tipped the scales in Dortmund's favor. Weidenfeller kicked the ball away after a routine save and found Lewandowski, who put a head on it to get the ball to Kevin Grosskreutz.
Grosskreutz sent a perfect cross through to Mario Götze, who fended off pressure from Real defender Alvaro Arbeloa and shot past Casillas as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the first half, giving Dortmund a 2-1 advantage at the break.
Slow start for Schalke
Despite a strong start from Schalke at home in Veltins Arena, Arsenal quickly proved they were out to pay their German opponents back for a home loss in the last contest between the two teams.
Within eight minutes, the guests from London had gone up 2-0 and had made Schalke's defense look very wobbly. First it was Theo Walcott in the 18th minute after Schalke's Benedikt Höwedes failed to clear a header from Olivier Giroud. But the real masterstroke from Arsenal came 8 minutes later, when they took their time running circles around Schalke's defense in the area before Lukas Podolski put a cross in to Giroud, who completed the goal with a flying, Superman header.
Arsenal looked to have a 2-0 win in the bag as the first half wound down, but Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (pictured in the middle above) kept the home side's hopes alive with a goal just before the whistle.
"Up until the point [we went down 2-0], we were playing the best football of the season," Schalke coach Huub Stevens said after the match. "All of a sudden, you're behind, and you don't know why or how. [The goal] before halftime was an important moment psychologically."
Keeping the momentum
In the second half, Schalke didn't let Huntelaar's goal go to waste. Jefferson Farfan tied things up at 2-2 in the 67th minute after a cross from Lewis Holtby. Farfan managed to glance his shot off defender Thomas Vermaelen's leg and into the net.
Arsenal's response wasn't inspired enough to pose a real threat, with the exception of a last-minute mistake by Schalke's Joel Matip that gave Theo Walcott a one-on-one with Schalke keeper Lars Unnerstall. Fortunately for Stevens' side, Unnerstall made the save and the tie was preserved.
Down, but never out
Real Madrid, on the other hand, didn't give up so easily. With their nearly impeccable home record on the line, coach Jose Mourinho's men threw everything they had at Dortmund. Fortunately for the guests, a mixture of offside flags, lucky breaks and goal line heroics by Weidenfeller kept Real at bay.
But Real are never out of options when they play at home, and it was their German star who finally ended Dortmund's lucky run. Mesut Özil lined up for a free kick from a good 25 meters in the 89th minute, and his curling shot that simultaneously struck the ground and inside post was the equalizer his side needed to save their pride.
"That was a game between two teams that demanded everything of themselves," said Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp after the game. "Our first half was exceptionally good, and the second was fierce."
Klopp added that he disagreed with the decision to give Özil the final free kick, saying "that wasn't a free kick in my eyes."
German sides on top
Schalke and Dortmund remain at the top of their respective groups. Schalke have eight points from four games and lead Arsenal by one. Their next group opponent, Olympiacos, beat Montpellier 3-1 on Tuesday, and trail Schalke by just two points. Montpellier are as good as done with just a single point. Schalke host Olympiacos on November 21.
Dortmund also have eight points from four games and a one-point lead over Real Madrid. Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester City also drew 2-2 on Tuesday and have four and two points respectively. Dortmund are away to Ajax next on November 21.