Gelsenkirchen - The Bundesliga returned with a bang on Friday evening as FC Schalke 04 secured a narrow win against Hannover 96 in a nine-goal thriller at the Veltins Arena, the highest scoring match of the season so far.
Jefferson Farfan gave the home side a 1-0 lead at half-time before the most dramatic of second halves, with six goals in just 20 minutes, which tested the fantasy of even the most creative scriptwriters.
Julian Draxler increased Schalke's lead before Sergio da Silva Pinto and Szabolcs Huszti brought Hannover level. Marco Höger and Cipiran Marica restored the home team's two-goal lead, but after Huszti struck again, Lewis Holtby grabbed Schalke's fifth leaving Mame Diouf to complete the scoring with a stunning effort in stoppage time.
Johan Djourou was in for a busy opening on his Hannover debut as Schalke laid down the gauntlet with Höger's second-minute header from Jefferson Farfan's corner being tipped over the bar by Ron Robert Zieler. Ciprian Marica squandered the first clear-cut chance before Hannover finally got a measure of their hosts.
Without doing any attacking of their own, Mirko Slomka's men took the sting out of the Royal Blues, frustrating them enough to prompt a glut of fouls and yellow cards. Schalke had clearly lost their early impetus and they struggled to regain it. Djourou also picked up his first warning in German football for a sliding tackle on Farfan, who was the man who broke the deadlock in the 44th minute, volleying through the legs of Zieler from a tight angle after Hannover failed to clear a long throw-in.
Schalke began the second half with the same enthusiasm as the first, only this time they were rewarded with a goal. Lewis Holtby benefitted from a lucky rebound before spreading the play to the unmarked Draxler, who kept his composure to beat Zieler for his fourth goal of the season, putting the hosts in the driving seat in the 49th minute. As is often the case in the Bundesliga, though, the game soon took an unexpected change of direction.
In the 55th minute, Pinto's volley from the edge of the penalty area was looped unwittingly into his own goal by Roman Neustädter, and Hannover were suddenly back in the game. Just four minutes later, they were level. Sofian Chahed crossed the ball deep from the right to find the unmarked Huszti, who took it down well and threaded a left-footed volley into the bottom corner past a helpless Timo Hildebrand.
The next twist in the tale came just five minutes later when Schalke regained the lead. Höger was set up by Holtby, beating Zieler with a shot at his near post. The fourth goal in the space of just 16 minutes promptly arrived with Marica the latest to be left too much room by the Hannover defence, and he chose the other side of Zieler's goal to restore Schalke's two-goal advantage.
Schalke's joy was short-lived, though, with Huszti volleying into the roof of the net to bring the Reds back into the game within a minute. Mame Diouf probably should have had the ball in the back of the net for the eighth time a minute later when he volleyed into the side-netting, but Holtby soon settled Schalke's nerves in the 89th minute, slotting in the home side's fifth from Farfan's assist. When it seemed like it could not get any more dramatic, Diouf lodged his candidate for goal of the season with an overhead kick from 20 yards to complete the scoring at 5-4.
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