Relieved Schalke see off Stuttgart in relegation six-pointer
Dominick Drexler and Marius Bülter hit first-half goals for a Schalke side that were forced to hold on for victory after Borna Sosa's strike rattled nerves in Gelsenkirchen.
Schalke 2-1 VfB Stuttgart
Goals: 1-0 Drexler 10' (assist: Frey), 2-0 Bülter 40' (assist: Zalazar), 2-1 Sosa 63'
Despite their travails this term, both sides had reason to chirp ahead of their 100th meeting. Stuttgart picked up an impressive 3-0 win against Cologne to ease their Bundesliga malaise on Matchday 21 while Schalke could boast of a four-game unbeaten run. An unprecedented sequence of four scoreless draws did mean fans of the Royal Blues were keen to see a first goal from their team in over a month, however. Drexler provided it, the 32-year-old meeting Michael Frey’s stunning centre with a flying, close-range header. As the half progressed, Rodrigo Zalazar signalled his intent with a volley into the floor that tested goalkeeper Fabian Bredlow’s reflexes. A constant thorn in Stuttgart’s side, the Uruguayan attacker then decided to take on, and beat, Borna Sosa down the right. When a subsequent pass in for Bülter was angled home by the Schalke No. 11 via a thrilling, flicked finish, the Veltins-Arena lifted from its foundations.
Facing the sort of half-time deficit they hadn’t managed to overcome in over eight years, Stuttgart made a double swap at the break. Dan-Axel Zagadou and Tanguy Coulibaly added more bite to the Swabians, but it was Sosa who would test Ralf Fährmann with a curling shot that the goalkeeper palmed over. Inspired to try again, the Croatian full-back unleashed a speculative effort from distance which this time went through Fährmann, whose run of clean sheets ended in calamitous fashion. Again the visitors came. From the flank, Sosa found captain Wataru Endo, whose header brought redemption for Schalke’s shot-stopper, a brilliant parry drawing roars of approval from the home supporters. When Silas skied the loose ball, the relief inside the stadium was palpable. It would be even more so when the referee's final whistle signalled the end of a late Stuttgart siege as the hosts held on for a first win since November ahead of one more huge test next week against Bochum - one of three teams, including Stuttgart and Hoffenheim, only three points ahead of bottom side Schalke.
- Bülter has a team-leading four goals this season. He scored for the first time in 17 games here.
- Drexler has now matched a personal best three goals for a campaign.
- Sosa scored his second goal of the season.
- Schalke's opener was only the second time the hosts scored from a cross this term.
- Stuttgart have conceded 10 goals inside the opening 15 minutes of games in 2022/23, more than any other team.
- Schalke led by more than a goal at the break for the first time this term.
- Stuttgart have not won any of their last 21 away games in the Bundesliga and are winless in their last seven visits to Gelsenkirchen.
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Schalke: Fährmann - Aydin, Yoshida (c), Jenz, Matriciani - Kral, Krauß (Balanta 66') - Drexler (Greiml 90+2'), Zalazar (Latza 72'), Bülter (Karaman 72') - Frey (Terodde 72')
Unused subs: Schwolow, Kaminski, J. Müller, Mohr
Out: Brunner (broken nose), Heekeren (cruciate ligament), Kozuki (ankle), Ouwejan (muscular), Polter (knee), Skarke (foot), Tauer (match fitness), Uronen (adductor), van den Berg (ankle)
Coach: Thomas Reis
Stuttgart: Bredlow - Anton (Vagnoman 57'), Mavropanos, Ito (Zagadou 46'), Sosa - Endo (c), Karazor, Haraguchi (Tomas 78') - Gil Dias (Coulibaly 46'), Silas, Führich (Pfeiffer 78')
Unused subs: F. Müller, Nartey, Perea, Kastaranas
Out: Guirassy (adductor), Stenzel (thigh)
Coach: Bruno Labbadia
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