Andrej Kramaric scored a sensational free-kick and set up two more goals as Hoffenheim came from 2-0 down to beat relegated Schalke in a barnstorming encounter at the PreZero Arena.
Hoffenheim had the ball in the back of the net early on, but Christoph Baumgartner's goal was correctly ruled out for an Ihlas Bebou offside. Baumgartner then tried his luck from distance, drawing a smart stop from Ralf Fährmann, before Ryan Sessegnon put in a teasing cross that Shkodran Mustafi did well to clear. The hosts were dominating, but it was the visitors who took the lead against the run of play, when Suat Serdar picked out Mark Uth's clever run; the ex-TSG man had all the time in the world to stroke past Oliver Baumann for 1-0. Hoffenheim looked to hit back, with Mustafi producing another fine tackle to deny Bebou and Robert Skov testing Fährmann with a floating free-kick. Baumgartner should then have done better when picked out in the area by Kramaric, but half-volleyed over the bar, and a few minutes later Schalke doubled their lead. Bastian Oczipka whipped in a corner, and Mustafi – seriously impressive at the back – headed in off the post for his first goal in Royal Blue. Amine Harit could even had made it 3-0 but dragged wide of the post, before Skov whistled another free-kick wide and Stefan Posch headed over at the end of an entertaining first half.
Hoffenheim had slumped to a 4-0 defeat to Schalke in January's reverse fixture, but looked determined not to suffer the same fate, kicking off their fightback just after the restart. Skov went off at the break, so Kramaric stepped up to take a free-kick just outside the area, and curled it brilliantly into the top corner for 2-1. The Croatia forward then sent in a corner that the returning Kevin Akpoguma looped over Fährmann and into the back of the net, with the Schalke keeper getting fingertips to the ball but unable to claw it out. It was a similar story on the hour mark – this time, Kramaric delivered a free-kick that Baumgartner met with his head, with Fährmann once again getting a hand to it, and the ball once again rippling the net. The Royal Blues were suddenly on the ropes and Hoffenheim delivered a knockout blow four minutes later, with Bebou firing in after a tidy exchange of passes between Sargis Adamyan and Florian Grillitsch. The home side could even have added gloss to the scoreline, with Diadie Samassekou blazing over the bar, but were content to defend a 4-2 lead as they boosted their hopes of finishing in the top half of the table.
- Uth was on target for the first time since 7 November 2020, ending a 13-game, 988-minute scoring drought in the Bundesliga. The one-time Germany international is up to three for the campaign.
- Uth spent three seasons with Hoffenheim between 2015 and 2018, scoring 33 goals in 86 appearances in all competitions.
- Kramaric netted his 18th goal of the Bundesliga campaign, equalling the single-season record for a Hoffenheim player – Vedad Ibisevic also had 18 in 2008/09.
- Akpoguma scored his first Bundesliga goal in his 67th top-flight outing.
- Baumgartner grabbed his first headed goal of the campaign. Five of his six strikes this term have come on home soil.
- Schalke are the only Bundesliga team without an away win this season.
Watch: Kramaric: "We need to be more consistent"
Hoffenheim: Baumann (c) - Kaderabek, Posch, Akpoguma, Sessegnon - Grillitsch, Samassekou (Rudy 83') - Skov (Adamyan 46'), Kramaric, Baumgartner (Gacinovic 89') - Bebou (Beier 83')
Unused subs: Pentke, Belfodil, Vogt, Bogarde, Rutter
Out: Bicakcic (knee), Dabbur (personal reasons), Geiger (hamstring), Hübner (ankle), John (foot), Nordtveit (foot), Richards (thigh), Stafylidis (shoulder)
Coach: Sebastian Hoeneß
Schalke: Fährmann - Becker, Mustafi, Oczipka - Schöpf (Skrzybski 73'), Flick, Serdar (Bozdogan 68'), Kolasinac (c) - Harit (Kaparos 73') - Huntelaar (Hoppe 86'), Uth (Mercan 86')
Unused subs: Rönnow, Raman, Paciencia, Ezeh
Out: Aydin (ankle), Bentaleb (groin), Boujellab (ankle), Ludewig (foot), Mascarell (hamstring), Mendyl (ankle), Nastasic (calf), Sane (suspended), Stambouli (suspended), Thiaw (suspended), William (knee)
Coach: Dimitrios Grammozis