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Borussia Dortmund and Schalke both claimed historic wins in the Champions League on Wednesday, showing that Germany's top flight finally has three fine teams to boast

COMMENT
By Enis Koylu

Given the inglorious manner in which Borussia Dortmund were beaten by Schalke in the Revierderby on Saturday, the general pessimism surrounding German football in recent months, and Real Madrid's world class pedigree, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Schwarzgelben would be in for a nasty evening when they entertained the Spanish champions on Wednesday.

However, following a fantastic 2-1 triumph at the Westfalenstadion, Jurgen Klopp's side find themselves in a strong position to qualify from the 'group of death', having collected seven points from their first three matches. When the draw was made in late August, that certainly seemed to be a distant dream.

In many ways, Dortmund's forays into Europe have mirrored the fortunes of the Bundesliga. Backed by sell-out crowds (who did not have to pay big money for a ticket), and boasting a fine team of young players with an innovative coach who has his teams play slick football, much was expected of them.

MATCH FACTS | Dortmund 2-1 Madrid

 Shots
 On Target
 Possession
 Corners
 Bookings
 Red cards
BVB
15
10
43%
8
1
0
MADRID
14
5
57%
4
2
0
However, they flattered to deceive with the eyes of the world watching, crashing out at the group stage of the Champions League in 2011-12 after a series of limp performances. There had been no improvement on their Europa League campaign of the previous season, which also saw them fall at the first hurdle.

All of the problems that have been plaguing Germany at international level in major tournaments were rife in Klopp's team - the inability to finish chances, the naivety in big matches and the shambolic defending when it mattered most.

This term, however, they have been an entirely different proposition. They dug in against Ajax on matchday one, and showed the mental strength to recover from a penalty miss to record a late victory.

In their second game, against Manchester City, their biggest rivals for second spot in the group, they dominated the English champions from start to finish, only to be denied a famous victory by a combination of a Joe Hart masterclass in the hosts' goal and a dubious Mario Balotelli penalty in the dying seconds.

They truly announced themselves to the world on Wednesday, though. Klopp's side were brave, putting themselves on the line for the team, and running Madrid's midfield into the ground.

Sebastian Kehl, the elder statesman of the team, twice came close to breaking the deadlock before Robert Lewandowski's opener, while Mario Gotze also forced a good stop from Iker Casillas. At the other end, Roman Weidenfeller barely had a save to make. The win was no fluke - it was calculated and deserved.

Meanwhile, at the Emirates, Arsenal saw their proud record of not having lost a home European game to foreign opposition in a decade shattered by a brilliant Schalke performance.

The Konigsblauen, unlike their hated Ruhr rivals Dortmund, have built up more of a reputation in Europe in recent years, thanks to a run to the Champions League semi-finals two campaigns ago, but with the exception of the 7-3 aggregate victory over a shambolic Inter, they were yet to claim a big-name scalp.

MATCH FACTS | Arsenal 0-2 Schalke

 Shots
 On Target
 Possession
 Corners
 Bookings
 Red cards
ARSENAL
6
1
53%
2
4
0
SCHALKE
7
3
47%
3
2
0
The Gunners, usually so fluid in attack, failed to register a shot on target until stoppage time at the end of the second half, finding their path to goal blocked by Roman Neustadter in midfield and Benedikt Howedes in defence. Both players played with experience beyond their tender years.

Going forward, Arsenal were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men after Vito Mannone felled Ibrahim Afellay in the first half, while Schalke missed a string of easy chances to take the lead long before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's 76th minute opener.

Like Dortmund, Schalke were simply superior to their opponents in a tactical sense and fully deserved to come away from the clash with the full three points.

Around 600 kilometres south of Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen, Bayern Munich, eager to avenge last season's humiliation have enjoyed a near immaculate start to the season, and it seems that Germany can finally boast three credible continental teams.

As Borussia Monchengladbach's failure to qualify for the group stage and the national team's recent collapse against Sweden show, there is still some way to go for German football, but, on the evidence of Wednesday, the Bundesliga's star is starting to shine brighter.

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