Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 were held to their first 0-0 draw at home in the Bundesliga since October 2008 by an 1. FSV Mainz 05 side, who were perhaps closer to taking all three points than their hosts.
Thomas Tuchel's men took the game to the home side and had them on the back foot for most of the first half, with Ralf Fährmann the busier of the two goalkeepers. Not even the first appearance of 2014 for Julian Draxler was able to inspire Schalke in the second half as they dropped points for the first time since the turn of the year.
Schalke coach Jens Keller named an unchanged side for the very first time this season, welcoming Draxler back onto the bench after injury. There was a change in their approach, however, brought on by a keen, well-organised Mainz side, who were not afraid to take the game to their hosts, carving out some good early opportunities.
Shinji Okazaki had three good chances before Jefferson Farfan curled a corner directly onto the crossbar after a rare attack for the hosts. Elkin Soto then had a shot pushed wide by Ralf Fährmann, with Mainz affirming that they were not content to merely settle for a point. And as enterprising as they were going forwards, Tuchel's men were uncannily regimented whenever they lost possession, recovering in numbers and with speed.
Mainz a proven force
Defence and midfield amalgamated to form a seemingly impenetrable wall, forcing Schalke to spread the play from right to left, but rarely forwards, and it was quite clear how a league table taking into account the 157 rounds of Bundesliga matches since Tuchel took charge in 2009 would have Mainz placed in fifth, just behind Schalke, as well as the current top three of FC Bayern München, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund.
Okazaki again tested Fährmann with a placed volley that the Schalke custodian collected low down to his right, before the Royal Blues finally found a way through, with Farfan's shot being deflected wide by a fantastic Nikolce Noveski challenge. Early in the second period, Max Meyer saw his effort blocked by Loris Karius right on the edge of his area after the keepers initial mistake had left him dreadfully exposed, but it was the closest Jens Keller's side would come.
Indeed, it was Mainz that continued to have more joy going forward. Stefan Bell brought another excellent save out of Fährmann, who was certainly earning his stripes. Draxler then made his long-awaited return from injury, replacing Meyer in a move which also saw Kevin-Prince Boateng move into a more advanced positioned to add more weight to the Schalke attack. The Ghanaian went close with a glancing header, but Mainz continued to pose a threat when in possession.
Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting was Tuchel's choice to freshen up his attack and he set up Soto for another long-distance effort that missed the target. The fans called for a Schalke goal, but he visiting defence held firm for their first draw in 2014. Schalke, meanwhile, now prepare for their next test: a UEFA Champions League last 16 first-leg clash tie with Real Madrid CF on Wednesday.
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