A goal in each half from Leon Goretzka and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar sealed the Royal Blues' win at the BayArena, cutting the deficit on their second-place hosts to just three points. It was also Schalke's fourth straight success in 2014, while defeat for Leverkusen rounded off a miserable week on the back of their home exit to Bundesliga 2 side 1. FC Kaiserslautern in the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup.
Goretzka seizes the moment
Schalke started with the confidence befitting of their current form, but it was a somewhat nervous-looking home side who had the ball in the net after nine minutes. However, Gonzalo Castro was adjudged to have been marginally offside in the build-up and the goal was chalked off. Not long after that, Castro set up Kießling for a close-range effort that Ralf Fährmann blocked well. The Royal Blues custodian was soon in action again, foiling Heung-Min Son as Bayer began to get into their stride.
Their next opportunity fell to left-back Sebastian Boenisch, who got on the end of Roberto Hilbert's cross with a diving header that flew inches wide of the post. Goretzka soon took centre stage, however, robbing Lars Bender of the ball and outpacing Philipp Wollscheid before cooling chipping the ball over home keeper Bernd Leno from an ever-tightening angle to put the visitors in front - a moment of real class from the 19-year-old midfield prospect.
Bayer up the tempo
The goal seemed to really throw Bayer off their stride and Schalke kept a firm hold on proceedings in what was becoming an increasingly physical contest before the break. Leverkusen gradually upped their game again following the restart, with Boenisch pulling a good save out of Fährmann after being set up by Son and Kießling not quite managing to get his shot off with the guest keeper beaten.
Then came the 66th minute, one of stark contrasts for Santana. First, the Brazilian central defender cleared another Boenisch header off the line from a corner, but from the resulting corner taken by Gonzalo Castro, he diverted the ball with his knee past Fährmann and into the net to inadvertently haul the Werkself level. Sami Hyypiä's men now scented blood and Fährmann had to scramble to get to a dropped ball ahead of Kießling before Castro fired wide when clean through on the keeper.
Matchwinners Huntelaar – and Fährmann
Then, with just over a quarter of an hour to go, the Royal Blues took the wind out of the hosts' sails once again. Jefferson Farfan sent over a free-kick from the left and Huntelaar rose highest to nod it into the net against the run of play. With the clock ticking down, Leverkusen laboured in vain until the 90th minute, when Simon Rolfes drilled in a shot that pulled a match-winning save out of Fährmann right at the death.
Line-ups and statistics