Football Features

Brandt is BVB’s understated genius: Five things learned from Dortmund 4-0 Schalke

By Chris Smith

Published: 16:30, 16 May 2020

Borussia Dortmund made a triumphant return to action with a 4-0 thrashing of arch-rivals Schalke on Saturday. 

With the eyes of the world watching the Bundesliga as they became the first major European league to take to the pitch since the coronavirus-enforced suspension, Dortmund wasted little time in reminding Bayern Munich — who play on Sunday — that this title race is far from over.

Erling Haaland opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark after some slick build-up while a Raphael Guerreiro double and a second-half Thorgan Hazard strike finished the job for BVB, extending Schalke’s awful run of form.

So, what did we learn from the Revier derby?

1. Haaland strikes again

Is there anything Erling Haaland can’t do?

Once again, the Norwegian wonderkid was on hand to put Dortmund 1-0 up, slotting home with unerring ease in the 29th minute after some fine work from Łukasz Piszczek, Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard down the right flank.

That’s already Haaland’s 10th goal in the Bundesliga since joining Dortmund in January, reaching that feat in just nine games so far.

It also means the 19-year-old has now bagged on his Dortmund debut in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, Champions League and Revier derby. Simply unstoppable.

2. Dortmund right Revier wrongs

With just one win from their last eight Revier derbies heading into Saturday, it’s safe to say this isn’t a fixture Borussia Dortmund have enjoyed in recent seasons. BVB seem to find a way to throw results away against their fierce rivals where, in any other fixture, they’d get over the line without any problems. This time, though, they put Schalke to the sword with a punishing performance.

Sure, Schalke had their moments and tried to break on Dortmund whenever they could, but all too often it was the home team who were the counter-attack menace.

Lucien Favre’s men were too easily able to play through the Schalke lines and once they were into the open field, Haaland, Hazard and Brandt caused absolute havoc. Wagner’s side were equally torn apart out wide, where Dortmund wing-backs Guerreiro and Hakimi charged forward at will and created numerous openings.

Some dodgy goalkeeping didn’t help Schalke (more on that in a moment) but in the end, it was Dortmund’s sheer pace, directness and precision which won the day.

3. Schalke’s Achilles heel extends horrible run

After a solid start, Schalke are now eight Bundesliga games without a win, leaving their hopes of securing a European spot for next season in serious jeopardy. There are some serious problems for David Wagner to attend to but first and foremost, he simply must address their Achilles heel; goalkeepers.

Heading into Saturday’s match, Schalke’s stoppers, Bayern-bound Alexander Nubel and Markus Schubert, had been responsible for seven of Schalke’s nine errors leading to goals in the Bundesliga this season, the latter at it again here.

First, Schubert panicked under pressure while trying to clear the ball, playing it straight to Mahmoud Dahoud. Moments later, the ball was in the back of the net and Schalke were 2-0 down.

Secondly, just after half-time, Schubert once again flattered to deceive, allowing a Hazard shot to go past him and into the net far too easily. Admittedly, Hazard got plenty of venom into the strike, but Schubert’s positioning and footwork left a lot to be desired.

4. Julian Brandt is an understated genius

Dortmund’s build-up was disrupted by an injury to highly-rated teenager Giovanni Reyna during the warm-up, but any worries of this having an effect on their rhythm were quickly dispelled thanks to brilliant performances from Brandt and Hazard.

The latter was Reyna’s replacement and helped himself to a goal and an assist in a fine individual performance, but it’s Brandt who deserves special praise here.

With the likes of Haaland and Jadon Sancho often stealing the headlines, Brandt tends to go under the radar. But the Germany international was in full control of this one, often dropping deep to pick up the ball, connecting play with clever flicks and causing problems wherever he popped up on the pitch. The 24-year-old’s greatest weapon is his flexibility, looking equally comfortable playing through the middle, on the wing or closer to the base of midfield.

Julian Brandt’s passes made and movements network vs Schalke

Brandt’s lovely flick played Hazard into the right channel for the first goal and he finally grabbed a well-deserved assist shortly after half-time, once again linking up with the Belgian as he stretched Dortmund’s lead to 3-0.

5. Todibo’s tough day at the office

Jean-Clair Todibo and Julian Brandt

Jean-Claire Todibo has shown plenty of promise at the heart of the Schalke since joining the club on loan from Barcelona in January and has even hinted he might stay at the club beyond this season. “My future? The truth is that I can imagine staying here,” he said recently.

Saturday, however, was not Todibo’s day.

Yes, the French youngster made a vital goal-line clearance early on but it was clear to see he was off the pace in this one, perhaps falling victim to the extended suspension of the season. Todibo was taken to task throughout by the pace of Hazard and Achraf Hakimi, while he failed to cover behind fellow centre-back Salif Sane as Haaland made it 1-0.

Todibo was substituted at half-time due to injury as Wagner tried to inspire a Schalke comeback, although the Frenchman’s withdrawal did little to change the outcome of the match.