Shinji Kagawa stellar for Borussia Dortmund in draw vs. Schalke
Borussia Dortmund remain unbeaten in 2016, but dropped two points in the Revierderby in a 2-2 draw against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.
It is a point that the Black and Yellows will gladly take, as they had given up on the Bundesliga title long before the opening whistle. With Bayern Munich continuously winning and the amount of matches growing shorter, Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel saw no need to field his best team in the Revierderby.
When asked before the match whether Tuchel would rather hear his club referred to as a "Derby winner" or "Europa League semifinalist," he answered: "If I had to choose, I'd rather progress in the Europa League." With the second place already secured in the Bundesliga, BVB made eight changes in their starting lineup from Dortmund's 1-1 draw on Thursday against Liverpool.
United States youngster Christian Pulisic, Nuri Sahin, Moritz Leitner and Adrian Ramos all started, which meant that Dortmund boasted what was probably the most prominent bench in their history: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ilkay Gundogan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus and Lukasz Piszczek were some of the names. Marcel Schmelzer and Julian Weigl were not even in the squad.
In the end Borussia Dortmund have to be happy with a 2-2 draw as their defensive performance wasn't up to the usual standard. Schalke, on the other hand, showed against Dortmund's B-squad why they are currently in trouble to qualify for the Champions League.
If any more examples were needed, Borussia Dortmund made it crystal clear that their priorities lie in the Europa League. It was a mediocre derby, but it might have been on the expense of a great night to come this Thursday.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 5 -- The goalkeeper could have been the hero for Dortmund, but he couldn't save Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's penalty which evened the score at 2-2 in the 66th minute. He couldn't do much about Schalke's first goal either, as he was left alone by six Dortmund defenders, who were all caught ball-watching.
DF Erik Durm, 3 -- Durm played in the wake of Marcel Schmelzer, but after his poor 45 minutes against Liverpool he once again looked bleak. Durm only completed 53 percent of his passes and lost three out of four one-on-ones (via Squawka), summing up his technical deficits.
DF Mats Hummels, 7 -- The captain only played the first 45 minutes due to a minor flu, but looked dominant as ever in the first half.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 6 -- The centre-back had a couple of problems in his positioning in the second half. In the end he gave away the penalty that led to Schalke's equaliser.
DF Matthias Ginter, 7 -- It was the full derby experience for Ginter, who scored Dortmund's second via header. The right-back also absorbed two elbows from Huntelaar and Junior Caicara, emerging from the match with a bloody lip.
MF Nuri Sahin, 4 -- Tuchel, who raved on about Sahin when he was still working on his comeback from injury, still has to wait to see the best of his midfielder. Sahin was never the quickest, but seems to lack sharpness in his passing and doesn't quite have the assurance in his dribbling.
MF Sven Bender, 6 -- Started in midfield and later shifted back into central defence after Hummels' day ended at half-time. Forty-three percent tackles won and his 86 percent successful passing rate sum up Bender's mixed day at the office.
MF Moritz Leitner, 7 -- It was Leitner with a sweet assist to set up Kagawa's even sweeter goal. It was only his second Bundesliga start, but he made the best of it. The hosts were only able to stop him through fouls within the first 15 minutes of the match.
MF Shinji Kagawa, 8 -- The Japanese always excels in the derby. Naturally it was his beautifully weighted chipped ball that sailed over Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann to make it 1-0 for Dortmund. He was a handful on Sunday and had chances enough to double his tally.
MF Christian Pulisic, 6 -- Dortmund's best chance in the first half came through Pulisic, who showed all his qualities in one move. He breezed past a Schalke defender, putting the ball past his opponent with a brilliant first touch and used his speed to give himself the opportunity to shoot. Pulisic was arguably the best Dortmund player on the field in the first 25 minutes, but went quiet for the rest of the match until he was subbed off for Ilkay Gundogan in the 73rd minute.
FW Adrian Ramos, 3 -- Ramos really doesn't make it easy for people to rate him. Sometimes he impresses with world class moves to score or help his team score goals; sometimes he looks completely lost, as was the case against Schalke. His first touch was subpar.
MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 5 -- The Armenian came on at half-time for Hummels, but couldn't quite take the match by the scruff of its neck as he usually does. Mkhitaryan has seen a slight dip in form after being brilliant through all of March. He might use another rest in Dortmund's next Bundesliga match, but against Liverpool he is certainly needed to deliver.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, NR -- The 17 minutes Gundogan played looked very promising for Thursday. The liveliness of the midfielder is probably one of the biggest takeaways for Dortmund, who were desperately missing Gundogan last Thursday.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, NR -- Came on along with Gundogan to replace Leitner. The Gabonese found himself in promising position a couple of times, but couldn't steer the ball on target to win his team the game towards the end.
Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.