Gelsenkirchen - Bayer 04 Leverkusen passed up the chance to move above FC Bayern Munich in the table, as an impressive display from FC Schalke 04 saw them pick up their first three points of the Bundesliga season courtesy of a 2-0 win at the Veltins Arena.
Strutting his stuff
Kevin-Prince Boateng made his Royal Blues debut, but it was Jefferson Farfan who stole the show, providing the assist for Marco Höger's opener before scoring the second from the spot himself.
The opening quarter of an hour began with both sides adopting a risk-averse approach to proceedings, new boy Boateng's audacious attempt from 30 yards was the only real highlight. Signed from Italian club AC Milan this week, the Ghanaian international's positional awareness in behind Adam Szalai provided a constant threat for Schalke, while his link-up play with Julian Draxler was seemed effortless at times.
With chances at a premium, Leverkusen’s formidable front three began creating space for marauding full-backs Giulio Donati and Sebastian Boenisch by dropping further infield. The two troubled the home side with their accurate crossing, but left the visitors vulnerable on the break, which ultimately led to the opening goal. A handball from backtracking Leverkusen centre-half Ömer Toprak, under pressure from Szalai, allowed Farfan to whip in a curling free-kick from 30 yards which took the slightest of touches off Höger's shoulder before nestling in the back of the net.
The excitement surrounding the Boateng's signing was justified just before the break after his jinking run handed Draxler a chance to extend the hosts' lead, only for the Germany international to fire past the near post having beaten two men - a let-off which did not escape the attention of Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypiä, whose frustrations were starting to show as the sides went in at half-time.
However, the Finn couldn't exact a change in his side during the break as the start of the second-half saw Schalke’s pressing render Leverkusen’s midfield trio of Lars Bender, Gonzalo Castro and Stefan Reinartz null and void. The Royal Blues, meanwhile, continued creating chances with their attacking trio of Boateng, Draxler and Farfan running amok from the platform created by Höger and Roman Neustädter at the base of midfield.
Farfan seals it
Indeed, Boateng had the best chance of the second period in the 65th minute, but saw his header denied by the outstretched hand of Bernd Leno. Leverkusen resorted to breaking on the counter-attack, one of which was spurned by Heung-Min Son whose indecisive twisting and turning meant he failed to pick out his better-placed runners, before Emir Spahic headed wide from a late corner.
Leverkusen came to rue their missed chances, as their pressing for a goal left them cruelly exposed at the back. Farfan’s pace drew a foul out of Spahic inside the box, and the Peruvian converted the resulting penalty, finding the top corner to complete a convincing win for Jens Keller's charges.
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