Max Kruse and Milot Rashica were Schalke's tormentors-in-chief as Werder Bremen came from behind to beat the Royal Blues 4-2 in the Matchday 25 opener on Friday night.
Goals: 0-1 Embolo (26'), 1-1 Rashica (31'), 2-1 Kruse (pen. 51'), 3-1 Rashica (73'), 3-2 Embolo (85'), 4-2 Harnik (90+4')
Schalke were without a win in six Bundesliga assignments coming into this game, but began brightly at the Weser-Stadion – thanks in part to the presence of fit-again duo Weston McKennie and Breel Embolo in the starting line-up. The sides traded blows early on, with Maximilian Eggestein and Kruse going close for the hosts, while Guido Burgstaller and Matija Nastasic tested Jiri Pavlenka at the other end before Embolo broke the deadlock, latching on to McKennie's flick-on before rifling home. Schalke's lead was short-lived, however, as Rashica restored parity with a measured volley from Kruse's cross.
The second half was equally frenetic and it was not long before there was more goalmouth action. Rashica burst into space down the right and after Kruse's heel was clipped inside the six-yard box as he looked to tuck home the cross, Bremen were awarded a penalty. Kruse made no mistake from the spot, sending Alexander Nübel the wrong way to put the hosts in front and knock the wind out of Schalke's sails. Rashica looked to have killed the game off for the hosts in the 73rd minute, skillfully collecting Eggestein's flick-on before dancing past a defender and smashing home, but Embolo set up a nervy finale with his second of the night, heading in from a corner late on. Schalke were unable to muster an equaliser though, and substitute Martin Harnik sealed the points for the home team deep into stoppage time as Bremen reignited their push for European qualification.
Watch: Kruse reflects on the win over Schalke
- Pizarro was in Bremen's starting line-up for the third time this season, and first in 2019.
- Embolo now has four goals in 11 Bundesliga outings this season.
- Fin Bartels made his first appearance for Bremen since December 2017, having recently recovered from a long-term Achilles tendon injury.
- Rashica now has five league goals since the turn of the year – more than any other Bundesliga player bar Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (also five).
- Kruse has scored all 13 penalties he has taken in the Bundesliga.
- The visitors have only 23 points from 25 matches so far. That's their worst return since the 1982/83 season, when they ended up being relegated.
Bremen: Pavlenka - Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic, Moisander, Augustinsson - M. Eggestein, Bargfrede, Klaassen - Rashica (Bartels 84'), Pizarro (Harnik 67'), Kruse (c) (Möhwald 90+1')
Unused subs: Kapino, Friedl, Bejimo, J. Eggestein
Out: Johannsson (ankle), Langkamp (shoulder), Osako (back), Sahin (stomach bug)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt
Schalke: Nübel – Bruma, Stambouli, Nastasic – Caligiuri (Sane 87'), McKennie, Bentaleb (Kutucu 73'), Oczipka – Embolo, Burgstaller, Skrzybski (Matondo 79')
Unused subs: Fährmann, Rieter, Rudy, Konoplyanka
Out: Schöpf (knee), Serdar (suspended)
Coach: Domenico Tedesco
Watch: Rashica discusses his improving form at Bremen