Stuttgart - An Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting treble helped FC Schalke 04 record their first away victory under Roberto Di Matteo as the Royal Blues cruised to a 4-0 success away to former coach Huub Stevens’ VfB Stuttgart.
Choupo-Moting scored either side of Max Meyer’s strike to give the Gelsenkirchen club a 3-0 half-time lead at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, and the Cameroon international completed his treble just after the hour-mark to cap a fine individual performance and compound a miserable afternoon for Stuttgart.
Stevens named the same side that beat SC Freiburg so convincingly at the Schwarzwald-Stadion last Friday, but the hosts suffered the worst possible start, with Schalke taking the lead after just sixty seconds, Tranquillo Barnetta sending in a floating free-kick which Choupo-Moting managed to flick past Sven Ulreich for his fifth goal of the season.
Stuttgart looked rattled after the early opener, and things soon got worse for the Swabians as Meyer capitalised on some more defensive uncertainty to double the visitors’ lead with just ten minutes on the clock. After Timo Baumgartl had failed to clear a straightforward ball over the top of the home defence, the 19-year-old reacted excellently to guide his header into the back of the net from a tight angle.
Choupo makes it three
Sercan Sararer and Timo Werner both saw efforts flash wide of the target as Stuttgart did their best to muster a response. Martin Harnik almost charged down Schalke keeper Ralf Fährmann’s clearance just before the 20-minute mark, but when Choupo-Moting rose unmarked to thump home a header just moments later, the home side were already staring down the barrel of defeat. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar almost added a fourth before the interval, but his close-range header looped just over the crossbar.
Stuttgart had fought back from three goals down to claim a draw against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 8, but although Stevens’ charges enjoyed a greater share of possession after the interval, they continued to lack a cutting edge in the final third, with substitute Oriol Romeu and skipper Christian Gentner both failing to hit the target from promising positions.
Instead, it was Schalke who continued to push forward and after Ulreich had done well to clear a Barnetta effort away from danger, Di Matteo’s side increased their advantage through the irrepressible Choupo-Moting. Once again, Stuttgart’s marking was virtually non-existent as the former 1. FSV Mainz 05 man headed Barnetta’s cross into the far corner for his first treble in Schalke colours.
The 25-year-old was quite rightly given a standing ovation when he was replaced by youngster Leroy Sane with five minutes remaining, before Germany international Antonio Rüdiger limped off with what looked like a thigh injury to complete a disastrous day for Stevens, who suffered his heaviest ever Bundesliga defeat at the hands of his former employers.
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