mef you have an early chance to nail your colors to the tree and make a good impression with your new fans, you have to take it – and that’s exactly what Nico Schlotterbeck did. Earlier this week, shortly after making his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund, the young German goalkeeper was a guest on a chat show on the club’s in-house TV channel in front of a live audience.
Sky presenter Sebastian Hellmann, another Schlotterbeck panellist, mentioned an upcoming assignment at Schalke’s game with Borussia Mönchengladbach, the Barr-Spiel (final game) of the second weekend of the league season, in the main Saturday evening, kick-off 6.30pm . slot. “They have a Top-Spiel in Schalke?” Schlotterbeck crashed in wryly, naturally bringing the house down with the ridge of local rivals BVB.
Schalke have had more than their share of digs over the past few years. It’s been a steady downhill slide since Domenico Tedesco was sacked after March 2019’s 7-0 Champions League (that’s right) defeat at Manchester City. Leroy Sané, the club’s academy star, scored in that one, almost four years to the day after he scored for death of Königsblauen in a stunning victory at Real Madrid. The rest is the stuff of legend – David Wagner’s inglorious reign, the four-coach relegation season, even flirting with Tasmania’s Berlin record of 31 Bundesliga games without a win (when Schalke beat Hoffenheim in January 2021 to avoid that, Tasmania was so relieved and they were).
It was not easy to come back. Even amid the joy and relief of promotion back to the Bundesliga at the first attempt, there was the prospect of more bills to pay. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Schalke felt compelled to cut ties with long-term sponsor Gazprom (Dortmund offered to donate and fill the financial gap). Meanwhile Dimitrios Grammozis, who was sacked as coach in March as Schalke languished in sixth place, is still receiving his €1.2m salary, with his successor Mike Büskens promoted immediately after encouraging a one-year extension.
So they have a former coach who they are paying more than their current coach, Frank Kramer (he earns €1m per season). They even pay a Grammozis bonus for every top flight point they earn this term.
Gladbach’s visit on Saturday was worth it. Around 62,271 fans managed to sell out Veltins-Arena, its first sellout in two and a half years. Those supporters welcomed their side with a rousing blue and white chorus and a banner reading “Hundertmal schon totgesagt und dann stehst du wieder auf” (“You are pronounced dead a hundred times and then you rise again”). And how their team played those words out.
Crowd favorite Rodrigo Zalazar, scorer of the promotion-winning goal, got a first-half winner from range, but Schalke’s pace of action wore them out. Gladbach’s patient possession game won control, and goals from Jonas Hofmann and Marcus Thuram looked like spoiling the party. Download Marius Bulter. When VAR confirmed Patrick Herrmann had been tackled trying to clear a cross in stoppage time, Bülter stepped up. He converted nervelessly, erupted the supporters and Schalke had a valuable point.
“We will always have difficulties in the Bundesliga,” Kramer told Sky. “You have to get back up, and that’s what the team did today. That fits the culture here and that’s what people want to see.” The new season has already given strong hints of a (necessary) siege mentality. A spirited performance in the opening day win over Cologne was marred by a sense of injustice when Zalazar’s potential early goal was ruled out, followed by Dominick Drexler’s red card. Both were probably correct, but limited enough to warrant a complaint.
Here, goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow, who was good enough to be loaned from Hertha, suffered a second ricket in a few weeks. After conceding a vital second to Florian Kainz in last week’s loss, another handling error here saw Thuram revive to give Gladbach what looked to be a decisive lead. But Peter Knäbel, Schalke’s sporting director, moved quickly to end any speculation about Schwolow’s status when interviewed. “We are not discussing a goalkeeper at all,” he said.
Knäbel also acknowledged the gap between the first and second series, especially in terms of athleticism. Zalazar still can’t last 90 minutes and Jordan Larsson, signed after his release from Spartak Moscow, will also need time to adapt to the game. Meanwhile, those fans will carry them. “They sent out an acoustic force that could be understood as a signal: Schalke is back,” wrote Nils Balke-Barton in WAZ. They are aiming to survive this year, but Schalke’s presence is something the Bundesliga has missed.
Bayern Munich and Dortmund both maintained their 100% records (they are the only two to manage it), which they achieved in strikingly contrasting ways. Bayern were once again imperious against one of their favorite opponents, Wolfsburg, who made far worse visits to the Allianz Arena than Sunday’s 2-0 win. “It was administration,” said Julian Nagelsmann, who enjoyed controlling his team’s performance after the previous week’s blowout, “which we didn’t always do well last year.” It was a good evening for Thomas Müller in particular, who scored the second and got the better of Niko Kovac, the coach who almost pushed him to the exit door of Bayern.
After hanging tight against Leverkusen last week, BVB made a late comeback in Freiburg after taking an early blow from the classy hosts, who took the lead through Michael Gregoritsch. Edin Terzic’s substitutes turned him around in the final quarter – 18-year-old Englishman Jamie Bynoe-Gittens got his first senior goal with a well-struck long ranger that Mark Flekken should have saved, before fellow teenager Youssoufa Moukoko . and Marius Mac Tyre hit to win the game. Jude Bellingham, a comparative veteran at 19, mentioned the influence “my sons” had on social media.
Leipzig hailed the return of Timo Werner, who looked a little rusty but marked his comeback with the opener against Cologne thanks to another generous goalkeeping brace, with Marvin Schwäbe diving over his shot. But the hosts took the lead twice, with Josko Gvardiol’s own unfortunate goal giving Steffen Baumgart’s team a point. Domenico Tedesco was happy with the humor of his team despite still waiting for the first victory. “A lot of teams that had to deal with what we did today would have lost,” the coach said.
Leverkusen’s start is worrying, and one of the favorites to grab Bayern’s coattails at the bottom of the table after losing three competitive games out of three (including a Pokal embarrassment at third-tier Elversberg). This weekend’s home defeat at Augsburg was one of those evenings of the season so far – Die Werkself They had their moments in all three games – with Rafal Gikiewicz making a save and Amine Adli breaking each other’s bones in his first game back after four months out for Gerardo Seoane’s side. André Hahn’s hard-fought winner gave the visitors’ rookie coach Enrico Maaßen – who came from Dortmund’s second team – a first win after last week’s Bundesliga win at home to Freiburg.