Wataru Endo notched his first ever Bundesliga goals as VfB Stuttgart cruised past crisis-hit Schalke 5-1 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Stuttgart 5-1 Schalke
Goals: 1-0 Endo (10'), 2-0 Endo (26'), 3-0 Kalajdzic (34'), 3-1 Kolasinac (40'), 4-1 Klement (88'), 5-1 Didavi (90')
Some senior Schalke players were reportedly unhappy with coach Christian Gross in the run-up to this game, but the Royal Blues nearly got off to the perfect start when Amine Harit brilliantly controlled a high ball to the back post, taking Konstantinos Mavropanos out of the equation before forcing Gregor Kobel into a fine save. There is a reason Stuttgart came into this fixture 20 points above their visitors, though, and normal service was resumed when Borna Sosa whipped a corner in for Endo, who converted from close range. Stuttgart pulled further clear midway through the half. Again Endo found himself unmarked from a corner - this one taken by Gonzalo Castro on the other side - but the result was the same, with the Japanese firing home unchallenged for 2-0. Sasa Kalajdzic then got in on the scoring, heading home another Sosa cross, this time from open play. Sead Kolasinac pulled one back before the half was out with a low shot into the far corner, but there was little doubt that Schalke were the more relieved to hear Guido Winkmann's whistle go for half-time.
The teams came out unchanged for the second half, and the flow of play continued in the same direction with Sosa playing in Orel Mangala, who blazed a shot over from the edge of the box. Michael Langer - the third Schalke goalkeeper to feature in the Bundesliga this season after injuries to Ralf Fährmann and Frederik Rönnow - then got away with a defensive mix-up with Malick Thiaw, forcing the ball clear before Kalajdzic could capitalise. Gross sent Nabil Bentaleb and Alessandro Schöpf on for the final half hour, and they forced a free-kick which Harit blasted straight into the Stuttgart wall. Suat Serdar then forced Mangala into a last-ditch tackle as the Royal Blues began to rally. The visitors should have pulled a goal back after Harit earned a penalty, but Bentaleb's spot-kick was saved by Kobel. Philipp Klement and Daniel Didavi then added gloss to the scoreline - Endo turning provider in the first case - as Stuttgart climbed into the top half of the table with a 5-1 win.
- Endo scored twice, notching his first two goals in the Bundesliga. The Japan midfielder had missed with his previous 18 shots on goal this season.
- Sosa tallied his seventh and eighth assists of the season. He has teed up Kalajdzic for a goal in each of their last three games together.
- Stuttgart have 32 points on the board after 23 matches. No team with such a healthy balance at this juncture has ever been relegated.
- Kolasinac's goal was his first in the Bundesliga since March 2017, when the Arsenal-owned man bagged the winner against Mainz. How they could do with the same again next Friday.
- Schalke have conceded a league-high 16 headed goals, and 61 all told.
- The Royal Blues are the only Bundesliga team this season still to win away from home.
Stuttgart: Kobel - Mavropanos, Anton, Kempf (Stenzel 76') - Silas (Coulibaly 86'), Mangala, Endo, Sosa - Förster (Didavi 62'), Castro (c) (Klement 62') - Kalajdzic (Al Ghaddioui 86')
Unused subs: Bredlow, Karazor, Cisse, Klimowicz
Out: Egloff (ankle), Gonzalez (hamstring), Mola (hip), Thommy (hip)
Coach: Pellegrino Matarazzo
Schalke: Langer - Becker, Mustafi, Thiaw, Kolasinac (c) - Stambouli (Oczipka 84'), Mascarell (Bentaleb 57') - William (Schöpf 56'), Serdar, Harit - Hoppe (Raman 73')
Unused subs: Ahlers, Mendyl, Mercan, Bozdogan
Out: Boujellab (ankle), Fährmann (rib), Huntelaar (calf), Ludewig (foot), Nastasic (calf), Paciencia (knee), Rönnow (groin), Sane (knee), Skrzybski (knee), Uth (thigh)
Coach: Christian Gross