Hanover - Not even a week into the 2014/15 domestic campaign and the pressure is already on for FC Schalke 04.
'Both goals were avoidable'
Defeat to third division club SG Dynamo Dresden in the was unexpected to say the least, but so was the manner in which the Royal Blues capitulated on the road at Hannover 96 in their maiden fixture of the new Bundesliga season.
"I'm really annoyed," admitted Schalke head coach Jens Keller after watching his side throw away a 1-0 lead on Saturday afternoon. "We were heading for a 1-0 win and created more chances to score. As soon as we had a grip on the game, we were caught on the counter and made individual errors. Both of Hannover's goals were avoidable. That can't happen."
As Keller alluded to from the bowels of the HDI Arena, there only looked like being one winner when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar grabbed his 11th league goal of 2014, before Schalke inexplicably hit the proverbial snooze button with 23 minutes left on the clock. Less than 180 seconds later, goals from Edgar Prib and Joselu had turned the contest on its head.
"It's a bitter pill to swallow," lamented 2014 FIFA World Cup winner Julian Draxler. "We fell apart after the equaliser and they didn't take long to go in front. We have to go away and look at why we conceded two goals on the counter after taking the lead. We didn't expect the season to start this way. We have to switch ourselves on as soon as possible."
Die Knappen now have just under a week to remedy their early-season foibles in time for Matchday 2's blockbuster assignment at home to 24-time German champions FC Bayern München. Schalke lost 4-0 in last season's corresponding fixture at the Veltins Arena and haven't beaten the Bavarians in the Bundesliga in almost four years (4 December 2010).
'Won't be any easier'
"We will give it absolutely everything in training over the coming days so that we can get a good result against Bayern," affirmed Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes. "It's been a miserable start to the season and everyone has to learn from it. We have to keep a cool head and prepare for the next game. The upcoming matches certainly won't be any easier."
Keller's men got away with making a decidedly slow start in 2013/14 - only awaking from their slumber in the new year - but the club will want to avoid such a high-risk fallback this time around with competition for the Bundesliga's allotted European places arguably at an all-time high. Unfancied Hannover proved that beyond any doubt on an opening weekend to forget for the bleary-eyed Royal Blues.