Goals twenty minutes into each half from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Julian Draxler sealed a vital three points for a dominant Royal Blues side at the Veltins Arena.
Huntelaar breaks deadlock
Di Matteo opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation, and, boosted by the return of first-choice centre-half duo Kaan Ayhan and Benedikt Höwedes, his new-look outfit began with vigour. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Draxler linked up well in midfield on several occasions before Huntelaar spurned Schalke's first chance on the ten-minute mark, shooting wide from ten yards out after a low cross from Atsuto Uchida.
Hertha had the next opportunity when Peter Pekarik hammered wide from close range, but Jos Luhukay’s men paid the price for allowing Huntelaar a second gilt-edged chance shortly after. Draxler’s superb cross was met by the Dutchman’s powerful header into the far right corner, bringing the first goal of the new regime after 19 minutes.
Höwedes to the fore
Uchida almost found a way through after being teed up by Roman Neustädter few minutes later, but Hertha, looking to beat their opponents on the break, did have chances of their own, with Salomon Kalou seeing an effort denied by a superb Höwedes challenge. Five minutes before the break, Per Skjelbred’s long-range strike met its match in Ralf Fährmann.
Di Matteo’s half-time team-talk seemed to encourage his charges to build on their lead, and a lovely interchange from Neustädter and Draxler almost brought the second goal immediately, with the latter failing to hit the target. Höwedes, however, was called into action at the other end, with another excellent block from Kalou as the game opened up.
Draxler seals it
Dennis Aogo’s free-kick was almost converted by Neustädter on the hour mark, before Draxler took matters into his own hands. The Germany attacking midfielder's mazy run brought him to the edge of the box, from where his shot took a wicked deflection off Fabian Lustenberger and past a stranded Thomas Kraft.
Hertha’s attempts to hit back were full of effort, yet lacked any real cutting-edge. Kalou nodded wide in the 73rd minute, while Roy Beerens drew an excellent save from Fährmann five minutes later. The chances were too few and far between in the face of Höwedes and Ayhan’s excellent defensive displays, though, as Schalke held on to give Di Matteo the perfect start.
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