Xabi Alonso, signed from Real Madrid CF earlier this week, took his Bundesliga bow in Pep Guardiola’s revamped 4-2-3-1 formation, which saw the visitors carve out the lead when Robert Lewandowski opened his FC Bayern account in the 10th minute. However, Schalke struck back through captain and World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes to take a deserved share of the spoils.
Lewandowski ends cold spell
After making a disappointing start to the 2014/15 campaign, which culminated in being knocked out of the DFB Cup and a Matchday 2-1 defeat to Hannover 96, Schalke’s star midfielder Julian Draxler admitted that it wasn’t “the best time to be facing FC Bayern". Indeed it was the record titleholders that duly set about creating all the early pressure, with Ralf Fährmann forced to deny both Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski inside the opening five minutes.
There was little the Royal Blues’ custodian could do about the opener, though, as Lewandowski played a neat one-two with Sebastian Rode and tapped home his first goal for Bayern; incidentally his first goal for previous club Borussia Dortmund also came against Schalke. The hosts' response was to make their presence felt, as Jan Kirchhoff and Marco Höger were booked in quick succession, but their physical approach did little to alter their fortunes in the final third.
Schalke raise the stakes
Jens Keller had set his side up to absorb pressure in the hopes of catching Bayern on the counter-attack, yet offside flags and mistimed passes prevented them from calling Manuel Neuer into action. Kaan Ayhan went closest shortly before half time, but couldn’t convert from the halfway line after seizing on a poor clearance from the former Schalke stopper, who would stranded well outside his box.
Unbeaten on the last 84 occasions in which they had taken a 1-0 lead, 79 of which ended in victory, FC Bayern’s stranglehold on proceedings, possession and their opponents waned shortly after the restart. Draxler’s back post header drew the first real save out of Neuer, before Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting wasted a golden opportunity to snatch an equaliser by hesitating on pulling the trigger and thus allowing Jerome Boateng to make a last-ditch tackle.
Captain clinches a point
Buoyed by the vociferous home support, the Royal Blues began throwing caution to the wind after the restart and appeared to have the visitors rattled, who no longer looked as assured on the ball whilst defending a narrow lead. Soon the pressure told, as Dante, fresh off the bench, failed to deal with Sidney Sam‘s set-piece delivery allowing the ball to squirm into the path of Höwedes, who bundled home at the back post.
The scoreline did little justice to the sheer volume of goalscoring chances being created by either side, as Choupo-Moting and Lewandowski exchanged unsuccessful efforts at both ends of the pitch. In committing more men forward Schalke left themselves vulnerable at the back, but having raised the intensity levels of their pressing game, managed to keep the reigning champions at arm’s length, denying FC Bayern a second straight win and picking up their first point of the current campaign.
James Thorogood reporting from the Veltins Arena