Gelsenkirchen - Jefferson Farfan inspired FC Schalke 04 to a hard-fought 2-0 home win over SC Freiburg on Matchday 16.
Slow starting Schalke
The Peruvian delivered the corner kick which resulted in Nicolas Höfler scoring an own goal just before half-time, before his second-half penalty sealed the points on a day when S04 defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos marked his return to action after over a year on the sidelines.
Karim Guede and Vladimir Darida had the Schalke defence tied in knots early on with the former showing his determination to seize the opportunity on his first start since Matchday 5, in mid-September. They both ensured a promising start for the visitors, who now only have the Bundesliga to focus on following their elimination from the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Schalke were having a certain degree of difficulty getting their own game going, thanks to a well-disciplined Freiburg who prevented them from firing off a single shot on goal until midway through the first half, when Adam Szalai diverted the ball wide at the near post. Oliver Baumann remained untested until over half an hour had been played, but his instincts enabled the goalkeeper to block Felipe Santana's effort from point-blank range.
The Royal Blues were at this time beginning to find more gaps, although the way they took the lead just before the interval had more than just a touch of fortune about it. Farfan's corner from the left had made its way past all of the blue shirts inside the six-yard box, but there was still Höfler standing in its trajectory, and the luckless Freiburg midfielder diverted it in with the inside of his left leg.
It was symptomatic of Freiburg's season so far, and the timing did not help either as Christian Streich's men went in at the break with their heads drooping rather than held high with pride. Their coach clearly did his best to motivate them, and almost saw Freiburg come to an avail shortly after as Pavel Krmas headed over early in the second half before Matthias Ginter went even closer with another close-range aerial effort.
The hosts then started to put their foot on the ball and show who was lord of the manor, raising their possession to over 60 per cent before transforming that into chances. Max Meyer's overhead kick was tipped over magnificently by a back-tracking Baumann before Schalke's young star was bundled over inside the penalty area, allowing Farfan to step up to the penalty spot and slot away his sixth goal of the season, low into the right-hand corner.
The game was over as a contest, but there was still one more side story to be written, and that was the return of Papadopoulos. The entire Veltins Arena took to their feet to applaud the Greek's return to action for the first time in 383 days, since he injured his knee in a 3-1 defeat to Hamburger SV on 27 November 2012. With the three points and 'Papa's' return, there was plenty for the Royal Blue fans to be cheerful about.
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