Huntelaar double gives Schalke points at Augsburg

Augsburg - Two goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar helped lift FC Schalke 04 up to third with victory over in-form FC Augsburg at the SGL Arena.

Early lead

Tobias Werner capitalised on an error by Tim Hoogland to give Augsburg the lead after four minutes, but Huntelaar levelled after Alex Manninger fumbled Kevin-Prince Boateng’s effort. The Dutch international then finished off a lovely flowing move to put the visitors in front three minutes after the restart, and Schalke held on to move briefly into third ahead of the weekend’s remaining fixtures.

Markus Weinzierl’s team went into Matchday 25’s curtain raiser having taken just a solitary point from their five previous matches against the current top four this season, but die Fuggerstädter got off to a dream start when Werner latched onto Hoogland’s under-hit header, escaped the attention of Benedikt Höwedes and fired a fierce left-footed shot into the bottom corner to give the hosts the lead inside the opening five minutes.

Their confidence buoyed by Werner’s sixth goal of the season, Augsburg continued to press the visitors high up the pitch, forcing the Royal Blues into hurried passes which were going astray with increasing regularity. Huntelaar was guilty of one such pass, and the Dutchman’s 13th-minute effort from the edge of the area, which flew high over Alex Manninger’s crossbar, wasn’t much closer to finding its target.

Hunter at the double

With Schalke’s defence looking increasingly nervous, Augsburg kept working their way into promising positions, but failed to make the most of their dominance as Halil Altintop, Matthias Ostrzolek and Andre Hahn all missed the target from distance. The hosts were hit by a sucker punch just after the half-hour mark, however, when Manninger failed to hold onto Boateng’s long-range effort and Huntelaar gratefully side-footed home to bring Jens Keller’s team level.

Schalke started the second half in more composed fashion and were rewarded just three minutes in. Julian Draxler laid the ball off to the onrushing Sead Kolasinac on the left, the Bosnian defender taking a touch before cutting the ball back for Huntelaar, who was given the freedom of the six-yard box to tap into an empty net. Schalke thought they had scored a third moments later, but Draxler was adjudged to have strayed offside.

No way back

Huntelaar’s second seemed to take the wind out of Augsburg’s sails. Weinzierl’s side forced several corners in succession without troubling Ralf Fährmann’s goal, before Altintop sent an ambitious volley high over the crossbar. Werner’s low cross picked out Hahn on the edge of the box with ten minutes remaining, but the Germany international’s effort also sailed wide of the mark.

Hahn then had another effort blocked by Höwedes, before Daniel Baier’s effort from a similar position was deflected wide by a wall of onrushing Schalke defenders. Augsburg continued to pile forward in search of an equaliser, but it wasn’t to be as Keller’s team strengthened their UEFA Champions League ambitions, while the Swabians were left to rue what might have been.

Line-ups and statistics

Matthew Howarth