Schalke's Daniel Caligiuri decided the 94th Bundesliga Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund with two goals and an assist. - © imago
Schalke's Daniel Caligiuri decided the 94th Bundesliga Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund with two goals and an assist. - © imago

Daniel Caligiuri: Schalke's Revierderby hero, Borussia Dortmund's kryptonite and Matchday 31's Man of the Matchday

There's just something about facing Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby that brings the best out of Schalke's Daniel Caligiuri.

The Germany-born Italian winger took to the field at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park on Saturday with two goals in four previous Ruhr district rumbles to his name. He left with a match-winning brace and assist, bragging rights and a big pat on the pack from Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.

"Derby games are like cup ties, but we showed what we're made of," Caligiuri said after sparking a remarkable comeback from 1-0 down to win 4-2. "We were caught wanting with the early Mario Götze goal, but we stuck together and fought hard. To come back from behind and win is fantastic. We showed real team spirit and I'm absolutely delighted for the fans, who got right behind us. It's a huge win, a really special one at that."

The team player that he is, Caligiuri was always going to play down his role in the single most important victory of Schalke's 2018/19 campaign.

"Goals don't really matter to me, it's about the collective," the Gelsenkirchen club's seven-goal leading scorer said modestly - even though he was the undoubted architect of Dortmund's downfall.

Caligiuri brought Schalke level within four minutes of Mario Götze giving Dortmund the lead. - Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images

Within four minutes of Mario Götze's opener, Caligiuri fired in the equaliser from the penalty spot in front of BVB's baying Yellow Wall south terrace. And he didn't blink - neither from 12 yards nor when delivering a corner from the same end as Schalke took a 2-1 lead through Salif Sane before tearing up the script in the second half.

"I always feel confident taking penalties, even if I didn't hear the referee's whistle," laughed Caligiuri, having successfully converted 13 of his 14 spot-kick attempts in the Bundesliga. "I really didn't hear it. I had to look to see when he put the whistle to his mouth it was so loud, but I've been around long enough to be able to block that kind of thing out. I was fully focused on taking the penalty anyway."

Marco Reus' 60th-minute red card presented Caligiuri with another set-piece opportunity. A good 20 yards from Roman Bürki's goal, the former Freiburg and Wolfsburg man had no right to score - but he did. Top bins no less.

"I didn't want to put in in Row Z," he said. "Bastian Oczipka said I should put a cross in, but I wanted to have a go. I've been working on free-kicks in training and I had a good feeling, and then it went in!"

Caligiuri was right to trust his intuition. Though there was still time for Marius Wolf to join Reus in the home dressing room and for Axel Witsel and Breel Embolo to trade late goals, the Royal Blues' Italian Stallion had already landed the knockout blow.

Caligiuri's derby double was his second brace of the season and fourth of his Bundesliga career. - imago images / Moritz Müller

It is a performance Schalke fans will be reciting for generations to come - up there with goalkeeper Jens Lehmann's famous equaliser in December 1997 and the barnstorming 'mother of all comebacks' - a 4-4 draw from 4-0 down - two decades later. Caligiuri scored in that game, too, before assisting both goals in the reverse fixture and finding the net earlier this season as Schalke fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat on home soil.

But then you're only as good as your last performance, and Caligiuri's on Matchday 31 was otherworldly. The 31-year-old's heroics have all but assured Schalke - now six points clear of the relegation play-off spot with nine still to play for - of their top-flight status, while ending Dortmund's 15-match unbeaten home run and - very possibly - their hopes of bringing the Bundesliga title back to the black-and-yellow half of the Ruhr for the first time since 2012. You might say revenge is a dish best served Caligiuri-ed.

"If people think I'm a derby hero, that's great," Caligiuri smiled. "But we're all derby winners, we're all derby heroes, and our 12th man has earned it, too. We'll have to see what the night holds, but we'll definitely be having a few beers!"

Chris Mayer-Lodge