Gelsenkirchen - SC Freiburg secured themselves a place in the Bundesliga's European qualification spots during the winter break, as they moved up the table at the expense of FC Schalke 04 courtesy of an impressive 3-1 win at the Veltins Arena.
Huub Stevens' men are now winless in their last six matches after Jan Rosenthal and Jonathan Schmid cancelled out Jefferson Farfan's opening goal. Rosenthal added a third in a low-key second half, which saw both the two-goal scorer and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar receive their marching orders late on.
Schalke had only gained two points from their previous five matches, but made it abundantly clear early they intended to improve that record. Julian Draxler had Freiburg's goalkeeper Oliver Baumann at full stretch with a stunning long-range drive six minutes into the game, while Benedikt Höwedes headed the ensuing corner over. Draxler was at the heart of Schalke's most promising play, and acted as the initiator of a quick counter shortly after, when Farfan saw his effort cleared.
Draxler again failed to get the better of Baumann, before Lewis Holtby saw his curling effort bounce off Johannes Flum, but the Royal Blues probing eventually paid dividends as Farfan slotted in Holtby's assist after the two engineered a two-on-one situation. However, Freiburg responded well, and Cedric Makiadi's back-heeled miss two minutes later appeared to provide the initial spark, as Makiadi and Rosenthal both headed wide before the latter restored parity with marvellous volley from just outside the box.
Things went from bad to worse for Schalke just after the half-hour mark when Schmid coolly slotted in after a classy one-two with Max Kruse, who then forced Holtby into making a goal line clearance from a free-kick. However, the hosts looked rejuvenated in the final stages of the first half and could have levelled matters when Baumann thwarted the youngster for the umpteenth time to maintain his side's one-goal lead.
Unsurprisingly Schalke dominated possession after the restart, but lacked the necessary penetration and creativity once they crossed the half-way line. Their few promising moments came as a result of set-pieces and long-range shots, but neither Christian Fuchs' free-kick, nor Höwedes' and Draxler's attempts from the distance caused their opponents too much concern.
Conversly Freiburg threatened whenever they moved forward and added a third after an hour when Rosenthal struck another beautiful volley past Timo Hildebrand. Caligiuri, the provider on that occasion, could have made it four in the 66th minute, but couldn't find a way past Hildebrand after Schalke had once again been caught out on the counter.
The hosts were repeatedly beaten to the ball in the closing stages when both their Dutch striker Huntelaar and Freiburg's Rosenthal were sent off due to second bookable offences. It was an unceremonious end to proceedings, with neither side able to muster up any further promising attacks, as Freiburg moved up into fifth place.
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