Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke: The last time the Revierderby decided the Bundesliga title
With Borussia Dortmund narrowly trailing Bayern Munich in one of the most thrilling title races in Bundesliga history, old foes Schalke avenged the Revierderby heartbreak suffered on May 12, 2007 when the Royal Blues’ hopes of a maiden Bundesliga title were crushed by their Black and Yellow rivals.
Following Matchday 31’s thrilling Revierderby meeting between Dortmund and Schalke, bundesliga.com looks back at the fateful afternoon at the Signal Iduna Park that would prove to decide the outcome of the 2006/07 Bundesliga title race.
Schalke had put together a near perfect season and had made top-spot their own from Matchday 20 right up until the penultimate day of the campaign.
And by the time they saw off Stuttgart 1-0 on Matchday 26, Schalke were three points clear of Werder Bremen in second and seven clear of VfB in third. The title was theirs to lose and despite Stuttgart stringing together a subsequent run of six successive wins following that defeat, Schalke travelled to Dortmund on Matchday 33 a point in front and with the title still in their own hands.
Watch: A trip down Revierderby memory lane
As for Dortmund, a disappointing season - by their immensely high standards - had them in ninth place in the league by that stage and their chances of earning a European place looked remote.
Schalke’s side was bursting with Knappenschmiede-mined talent and had won four of their last five. The likes of Mesut Özil, Manuel Neuer, Christian Pander and Kevin Kuranyi all featured in a stellar squad that had captured the imagination of the Bundesliga thanks to its nucleus of young German talent.
As for Dortmund, new coach Thomas Doll fielded a team including club legends Roman Weidenfeller, Christian Wörns and Dede, with Lars Ricken, Sebastian Kehl and Nuri Sahin all on the bench.
The significance of the match wasn’t lost on anyone, with 80,708 fans packing into Dortmund’s stadium to bear witness to a Revierderby that would go down as one of the most memorable in the fixture’s rich history.
Dortmund’s pre-match programme explained; "Only those who are on a Mars mission or busy at the Koldewey research station on the west coast of Spitsbergen with scientific experiments have a chance of escaping the ballyhoo around the mother of all derbies."
And by kick-off - with a total of 600 accredited media members strewn across two press centres, one thrown up just for this fixture - it was not only the stretch of the Ruhr that divided the two teams that was consumed by the fixture, but the entirety of the nation and large parts of the wider world, too.
Dortmund went on the front foot right from the off, with Edi Smolarek feeding attacking partner-in-crime Alexander Frei, who just missed the target with barely a minute on the clock.
Schalke grew into the game, with both Özil and Gerald Asamoah going close in the first half, but it was Dortmund who took the lead on the brink of half-time through Frei. His superb finish from Christoph Metzelder’s sumptuous cross from the right is a goal he is remembered by to this day.
“Before, you were 'only' viewed by the fans,” explained Frei some three years later to Sport Bild. “Suddenly you are a hero. I still get a lot of fan mail from Dortmund today.”
A typically fiery affair - each team was shown four yellow cards - the tension was more feverish than ever both in the stands and on the pitch.
The second half was equally as nail-biting as the first and burst into life courtesy of Neuer’s stunning double save to deny first Frei and then Florian Kringe. But, with five minutes to go and Schalke pressing for much needed points with the title slipping from their grasp, Neuer was powerless to resist Smolarek’s second for Dortmund.
Metzelder, who went on to end his career at Schalke, would later recall the match as “my favourite personal derby highlight”. And, in the 85th minute, Metzelder's deflected shot looped high into the air and what looked like safety until the swirling ball dropped on to the right-foot of Smolarek.
The Poland striker sent his volley past Neuer and the home fans into raptures as a decisive nail was driven into the coffin of Schalke’s dwindling title hopes. A sublime finish instantly sparked both reverie and resignation on either side of the Ruhr and come the full-time whistle, Schalke had relinquished top-spot and slipped two points behind a now rampant Stuttgart side with one Bundesliga matchday to go.
"We had a big dream but now it looks like it won't come true,” said Schalke coach Mirko Slomka at full-time. “I'm very sorry for this great group, it's going to be very, very hard to get the boys back up."
The heartbreak was visible throughout the Schalke squad.
"We've taken a big step, but unfortunately in the wrong direction," said Pander, while Asamoah added; "We just did't play well, although we tried everything."
There would be no coming back from this for Schalke and, despite victory over Arminia Bielefeld on the final day, Stuttgart came from behind to overcome Energie Cottbus and clinch the Bundesliga title.
It denied Schalke a first Bundesliga crown and first German top-flight championship since 1958 - a record they have since been unable to alter. The pain will still be felt every time Schalke make that journey to Dortmund but this year’s trip finally gave them a measure of revenge that will surely soften some of that painful title blow they were dealt more than a decade ago.
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