- Goretzka helped set up one and scored other in 2-0 win over Hertha.
- Schalke up to 11th and have momentum to go further, according to midfielder.
- Confidence high ahead of UEFA Europa League resumption.
FC Schalke 04 were already 1-0 up – thanks in no small way to Goretzka's commitment and determination in the heart of their midfield – and he wanted to make a more tangible contribution to the Royal Blues taking all three points. Five seconds or so later, he had succeeded.
After the match, Goretzka provided his assessment of a win which lifted Schalke onto the cusp of the top ten.
Watch: Goretzka's team-mate Nabil Bentaleb says Bayern draw sparked Schalke's season into life
Question: Leon Goretzka, that was quite an unusual celebration after your goal, and after Guido Burgstaller's opener. It looked like you wanted to throw darts...
Leon Goretzka: I was given a dart board for my birthday a few days ago and I've been spending quite a bit of time in the dressing room recently playing with it (smiles). One or two of the lads were starting to get concerned that I might put my football career on the backburner because of it so I told them that I was just working on perfecting my precision. So it just felt right to get a goal against Hertha and then pretend I was throwing darts as a little joke for the lads.
Question: So you're playing darts in the dressing room now? Who's the best?
Goretzka: (smiles) Me, of course! We've got a few players who enjoy it, like [Klaas-Jan] Huntelaar, Burgstaller or [Alessandro] Schöpf. Considering we're only hobby darts players, we do pretty well at it.
"We have proven that we can play a kind of football that allows us to hold our own with the teams up at the top." - Leon Goretzka
Question: You wasted two good chances in the first half, but then got your goal in the second half...
Goretzka: A few cups were flying in the dressing room at half-time because I was really annoyed. When you don't reap the rewards for a good performance then it just gets your back up, but the lads had comforting, encouraging words for me at half-time and that gave me heart and belief that it would work out at the third attempt. Three is the magic number, as they say, and I'm delighted that I was actually able to pay back their faith in me by scoring.
Question: It really looked like Schalke were a team out there – how did you see it?
Goretzka: We were a working unit, and what's important for us to note is that we were able to keep things going for the full 90 minutes and control the game with our possession. You could already see in our game in Munich that we were improved on our previous games, and we did our job very well once again here. Our positional game was good and that enabled us to find room and create chances against a team who have certainly one of the best defensive organisations in the league, and this time what made the difference was how we put our very last drop into it. It was a very good game from us overall and we can be pretty pleased with it.
Question: Why are things suddenly working so well compared to your first two games after the winter break?
Goretzka: You've teed me up perfectly there to say that we've got a new pitch in the Arena now. People had been laughing at our criticism of the pitch, but anybody who's played football knows what big a difference a good pitch makes. It's not all about the pitch, of course, but it's an important component, while the self-confidence from Munich [on Matchday 19] and Sandhausen [in the DFB Cup in midweek] did the rest.
Question: Do you now have that courage which your coach and general manager had been asking for?
Goretzka: Definitely. It's obviously result dependent and so we hope now we can latch onto this in the weeks to come and benefit more from the self-confidence we've gained.
Question: You've moved up to 11th now. Can you feel the momentum gathering?
Goretzka: These three points against Hertha were certainly crucial, there's no doubting that, but what matters more is that we've proven that we can play a kind of football that allows us to hold our own with the teams up at the top, and that we can also crack teams like Hertha who have such strong defences with our creative play. I hope we can keep this going in the weeks to come.
Question: Next up are PAOK in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. What do you expect there?
Goretzka: I think it's going to be a real challenge! Last time we played them in 2013, we got to play them behind closed doors, but we still got a sense of what the atmosphere could be like there in the run up to the game. I'm therefore expecting it to be a very hostile atmosphere and we're going to need to keep our cool, like we did today against Hertha. We've said that we want to put 100 percent into the Europa League and getting through to the next round is one of our objectives.
Dietmar Nolte reporting from Gelsenkirchen / Translation by Ben Gladwell
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