A 3-1 win at Schalke in the 143rd Revierderby kept Dortmund on Bayern's heels, but it was tainted by 'antisocial behaviour'
It's widely known that Jürgen Klopp is the only Bundesliga manager who doesn't need to wear a mask to frighten the kids on Halloween. But on Saturday afternoon, the Dortmund manager showed us his softer, altogether sweeter side. When his attempt to volley a stray ball back on to the pitch misfired badly – he shinned it to the side and smack on the back of the head of the fourth official Thorsten Kinhöfer, who was scribbling furiously away on his notepad at the time – Klopp was a picture of acute, sheepish embarrassment, complete with a hefty dose of schoolboy charm.
The short clip of the incident doesn't quite do it justice. The scene, captured in super slow-motion glory by German Sky, continues with a po-faced Klopp looking around in distress for a good eternity before acknowledging Kinhöfer's discomfort with a shrug of the shoulder. It's not quite an apology, more a self-deprecating admission of guilt. "What do you expect from me, I was never very technical as a player," Klopp seemed to be saying.
That would have been quite funny by itself – by German standards anyway, we like that sort of thing – but it was made even more entertaining by the fact that Klopp and Kinhöfer had previous. In 2007 Klopp, then the Mainz coach, was fined €12,500 for calling the official an "idiot". Both his embarrassment and non-apology after the misguided volley were much more comical as a result.
Under normal circumstances this scene would have set the news agenda, but neither Klopp nor Kinhöfer were asked a question about it, as far as this column knows. There was just too much else going on in the 143rd Revierderby at the Veltins Arena. And most of it wasn't laughable.
Unlike in last season's instalment (180 injured) there was no wide-scale violence, but plenty of smoke and fire. Yellow smoke bombs in the Dortmund section of the ground delayed kick-off by 10 minutes. Much worse, however, were the flares fired on to the pitch – Roman Weidenfeller was targeted by his own fans when he tried to intervene – and into the Schalke stands made up of regular supporters and families. "At that moment I was ashamed of our supporters," said Klopp after the final whistle. "We won despite these missiles, not because of them." The Dortmund chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, spoke of "antisocial behaviour" that was "intolerable and unacceptable". Stadium bans for the perpetrators were on the agenda, he told Sky on Sunday.
Only a handful of fans were to blame, of course, but the latest trouble has come at a sensitive time. Police and local politicians throughout Germany are still advocating more draconian measures and the chaotic scenes from Saturday, seen as a bit of harmless fun by many of the Ultras, could usher in a more repressive approach.
Furthermore, they endanger the special bond that many teams and their supporters enjoy in the Bundesliga. The Dortmund players could not stop themselves from celebrating widely with their fans after the game had finished 3-1 in their favour. Would a symbolic snub have sent the appropriate no-tolerance message in this case, as the local paper WAZ seemed to think? "Dortmund and Weidenfeller, who led the celebrations, missed a great chance to make a statement," it wrote. On the other hand, non-celebrations would have amounted to a collective punishment for the 95% of law-abiding fans. Kevin Großkreutz's declaration – "I'm not ashamed for anybody, everybody is responsible for their own behaviour" – didn't really help, either.
At least there could be no arguments about right and wrong on the pitch. Dortmund's performance confirmed Schalke's deepest fears – the qualitative gap between the two sides has become so big that all the pre-season talk about "playing on the same level" (Schalke's sporting director Horst Heldt) appears preposterous in hindsight. To understand the Royal Blues' frustration, it's worth noting that their neighbours, who seemed down-and-out not long ago, have managed to erect a super mansion next door while the House of Schalke resembles an eternal building site, liable to fall down at the first gust of wind. That's what happens when you hire architects who lack flair as well as organisational skills.
"Jens Keller's position is assured, we will give him the time," said the Schalke chairman, Clemens Tönnies, unconvincingly. Even the most benevolent appraisal of the 42-year-old's reign – he has suffered from injuries to key players – has to attest to a total absence of any progressive momentum, over-arching playing style or, even, a smidgen of consistency. And what does it say about Keller's leadership qualities if he couldn't bear to watch Kevin-Prince Boateng's failed penalty attempt? (Heldt turned his back, too).
Schalke created some chances, to be fair, but the visitors were superior in all relevant categories. "We played against Dortmund today," said Keller with an air of resignation that has become quite persistent. Heldt quickly revised the season target's down to scraping into fourth space. The top three – Bayern Munich, Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen – are not just miles ahead in the table, but also playing much-better, well-planned football than the rest.
Schalke's horror weekend was compounded on Sunday night when Ottmar Hitzfeld hinted that Boateng's knee problems are chronic. "It is rumoured that he was already injured when he came to Schalke," the Switzerland manager told Sky. "They saw the problem in the medical, that's why they got him." Schalke subsequently denied this version of events. But in Italy, too, there were suggestions that Milan had been surprisingly keen to get rid of the 26-year-old, who was signed for a relatively modest fee of €10m.
Heldt admitted that the Ghanaian international had hardly trained over the past couple of weeks, and he refused to make any long-term prognosis. "I don't know what will be in one, two or six months," said the 43-year-old. Maybe it'll be someone else's problem by then.
• Hans E Lorenz, the chairman of the German FA's sports tribunal, likes a bit of a laugh. "Mr [Stefan] Kiessling, now you've been finally invited by the German FA" was his welcome to the Leverkusen striker (and non-favourite of Joachim Löw) at the opening of the "Phantomtor" adjudication on Monday. Lorenz also mused that Kiessling could be made to try and hit that same hole in the Hoffenheim net again and again. In the serious matter of a muted replay, Lorenz was unmoved, however. "The decision of the referee was wrong, but that's part of the system," he said. "It's not up to us to change the system." So there won't be a replay.
• The officials from Hannover had seen that decision coming. "I had a feeling throughout the week that it would be difficult for us because no referee would whistle against Hoffenheim today," said the Hannover sporting director, Dirk Dufner, after his side's 4-1 home defeat against TSG.
Mirko Slomka, the Hannover head coach, also seemed to suggest that the official had set out to right the wrong that was done to Hoffenheim the week before. "Maybe he felt under pressure," he said. The ref in question, Tobias Stieler, did not have his best day, to be fair – he awarded a penalty for a foul outside the box and sent off Hannover's Mame Diouf after only 12 minutes for dissent and a dive that didn't look clear-cut at all, before then also sending off the Hannover defender Marcelo in the second half.
"Total madness," foamed Diouf. There would have been more sympathy for Hannover's plight if they hadn't themselves made a gross mistake before the match. Steven Cherundolo, the captain, could not feature since the club had forgotten to officially register him as fit again, with a medical note. Before kick-off they told the press that the American had suffered a late back injury. "It was a stupid mistake," said Dufner.
• What Joe Hart can do, Oliver Baumann can do – but worse. The Freiburg goalkeeper made not one but three calamitous mistakes to gift Hamburg three goals and as many points on Sunday. Unlike Hart, however, Baumann faced the media with a mixture of self-effacing humour and defiance after the final whistle. "Fuck me, I don't look good at all here," said the 23-year-old while watching the replays. "It didn't quite work out as planned. But I'll emerge stronger from that." The "the slapstick keeper" (Welt) fared so badly that Rafael van der Vaart offered his condolences. "I've never seen something like that before," said the Hamburg midfielder, and he has played with Heurelho Gomes.
Results: Stuttgart 1-1 Nürnberg, Schalke 1-3 Dortmund, Leverkusen 2-1 Augsburg, Hannover 1-4 Hoffenheim, Bayern 3-2 Hertha, Wolfsburg 3-0 Bremen, Mainz 2-0 Braunschweig, Freiburg 0-3 Hamburg, Gladbach 4-1 Frankfurt.