Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 stole a march on rivals VfL Wolfsburg in the race for European qualification after edging a 2-1 win at the Veltins Arena.
Jens Keller’s charges began in determined fashion and went in front when Felipe Santana diverted in Kevin-Prince Boateng’s header. Wolfsburg suffered a blow at the start of the second half when Daniel Caligiuri was dismissed, but they looked to be heading for a point after Maximilian Arnold’s equaliser. However, Schalke eventually made their numerical advantage count, Boateng’s composed strike ten minutes from time giving Schalke their fourth league win on the bounce.
Wolfsburg began the game with an attacking team, with Kevin De Bruyne in the central attacking role following the deadline-day departure of playmaker Diego to Atletico de Madrid. The Wolves were completely overrun in the opening quarter of the game, however, with Schalke displaying the same confidence they did in their last game, a 3-0 win in Hamburg.
Diego Benaglio showed excellent reactions to push Boateng’s acrobatic half-volley wide of the post in the game’s first clear-cut opportunity, but from the resulting corner, the Swiss stopper could only watch the ball creep over the line after Boateng’s header had struck Santana, the Brazilian being credited with the goal.
Caligiuri departs, Arnold arrives
The visitors were struggling to find any rhythm in their passing, with De Bruyne almost anonymous. They did retain a threat from set-pieces, though, and after Naldo had seen a goal chalked off for an infringement in the box, they came within inches of equalising when another Brazilian - Luiz Gustavo - was denied by the sprawling Ralf Fährmann from point-blank range, with de Bruyne and Patrick Ochs also testing the keeper from distance.
Wolfsburg’s Dieter Hecking would have been satisfied with his team’s reaction to going behind, but his plans for a second-half response were seemingly thrown into disarray when Caligiuri was shown a straight red card for dissent. Nevertheless, his men responded admirably to the setback and forced a leveller when Arnold followed up from Perisic’s parried strike, after a superb initial ball from De Bruyne.
Schalke had been rather passive since taking the lead after nine minutes and the home support made it clear they wanted more intensity from their side. Wolfsburg had maintained good organisation since equalising and seemed content to settle for a point, but their stoic defence was breached again ten minutes from time when Boateng produced a cool finish from 18 yards after collecting Roman Neustädter’s cleverly disguised pass.
The Wolves looked to be running on empty in the dying minutes but they came close to another equaliser as the game entered added time when De Bruyne capitalised on an error from Santana to fire in a shot at Fährmann. The home custodian was equal to it, however, and his save preserved a hugely important win for the Royal Blues in the race for the UEFA Champions League places.
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