Niclas Füllkrug nabbed his second Bundesliga hat-trick as Werder Bremen eased to victory over Schalke on Saturday evening, leaving the Royal Blues rock bottom of the table after their 8-0 defeat to Bayern Munich on the opening day.
Schalke actually conjured up the game's first chance on three minutes, although Benito Raman's snapshot was easily gathered by visiting keeper Jiri Pavlenka. Bremen then took the game by the scruff of the neck, and Josh Sargent should have put them ahead when Leonardo Bittencourt found him in the penalty area, having picked Benjamin Stambouli's pocket high up the pitch. The USA starlet redeemed himself shortly afterwards, getting a powerful head to Ludwig Augustinsson's corner – with the onside Füllkrug ideally placed to steer it past Ralf Fährmann for 1-0. Florian Kohfeldt's men continued to swarm forward and doubled their advantage on 37 minutes: a pinpoint free-kick delivery from Augustinsson, a simple header for the unmarked Füllkrug. Schalke's Eintracht Frankfurt loanee Goncalo Paciencia drew a save from Pavlenka before the break, but Bremen were in firm control by half-time.
Schalke had a couple of excellent chances to halve the deficit at the start of the second half, but Vedad Ibisevic headed just wide from Paciencia's perfectly weighted cross, before Nassim Boujellab saw his low drive deflected behind for a corner. Just when the hosts looked to be getting a foothold in the game, Bremen delivered a knockout blow, with Füllkrug winning and coolly converting a penalty after being brought down by Ozan Kabak. The visitors' hat-trick hero soon made way for Davie Selke, although Werder could still have added gloss to the scoreline, with Sargent forcing an excellent late save from Fährmann. Things went from bad to worse for Schalke as Kabak was dismissed for a second bookable offence on 84 minutes. Despite an injury-time consolation goal for Mark Uth, David Wagner's side were clearly feeling the ill-effects of their demolition at the hands of Bayern. The 2017/18 runners-up now find themselves bottom of the table, with trips to RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund on the horizon in October.
- Füllkrug is the first Bremen player to score a Bundesliga hat-trick since Max Kruse in November 2017, when the Green-Whites beat Hannover 4-0. He is now joint-top of the scoring charts alongside Bayern's Serge Gnabry and Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramaric.
- The 27-year-old Bremen youth product was still playing for Hannover when he scored his previous top-flight treble, in a 3-2 win over Mainz on 13 January 2018.
- Five of Füllkrug's last eight goals have come from set pieces. He converted his first penalty for Bremen, making it five out of six in the Bundesliga.
- Bremen have won their last five games at Schalke, including four in the Bundesliga.
- Schalke coach Wagner is on the third longest winless run of any Bundesliga coach (18), after Heinz-Ludwig Schmidt (20, Tasmania Berlin) and Bernd Hoss (21 games, Blau-Weiß Berlin).
- The Royal Blues have conceded 11 goals and scored just once in their first two outings.
Watch: Füllkrug: "We showed mental strength"
Schalke: Fährmann - Rudy, Kabak, Stambouli (Sane 45'+3), Oczipka – Boujellab, Mascarell (c), Bentaleb – Uth, Paciencia, Raman (Ibisevic 45'+3)
Unused subs: Schubert, Mendyl, Nastasic, Matondo, Skrzybski, Schöpf, Bozdogan
Out: Harit (unknown), Mascarell (match fitness), Serdar (thigh)
Coach: David Wagner
Bremen: Pavlenka - Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic, Friedl, Augustinsson – Klaassen (c) (Groß 87'), M. Eggestein, Mbom (Osako 90') - Bittencourt (J. Eggestein 68') - Sargent (Chong 87'), Füllkrug (Selke 68')
Unused subs: Kapino, Agu, Moisander, Woltemade
Out: Möhwald (match fitness), Rashica (knee), Toprak (calf)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt