Berlin - FC Schalke 04 twice went behind away to a much-improved Hertha Berlin side, but fought back each time to secure a 2-2 draw and stretch their unbeaten streak against the capital club to 13 league games.
Hertha strike first
Änis Ben-Hatira put the hosts ahead but Schalke’s Leroy Sane, making his Bundesliga starting debut, scored a superb equaliser before the break. Genki Haraguchi looked to have won it for Hertha with a late strike, only for Joel Matip to secure a point for the guests with a header in the final minute.
The visitors may have beaten reigning European champions Real Madrid CF in their own back yard earlier in the week, but Hertha were far from cowed in the opening period and took the game to Schalke, pressing aggressively and throwing themselves whole-heartedly into the tackles. With both teams employing five-man midfields, there was little by way of goalmouth action early on, although the complexion of the game was to change midway through the half.
Hertha midfielder Valentin Stocker cut in from the right wing and fired a 20-yard shot goalwards that Schalke’s teenage goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther could only parry towards the middle of the penalty area, where Ben-Hatira pounced on the rebound to prod home. The hosts subsequently began to sit deeper and play on the counter-attack, inviting Schalke to come forward.
The Royal Blues duly obliged and although the Hertha back line - led by the impressive John Anthony Brooks - kept them at arm’s length for a while, the home team were unable to withstand the pressure completely and conceded an equaliser shortly before the break. Youngster Leroy Sane, who scored against Real Madrid and was drafted into the starting line-up after Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting injured himself in the warm-up, collected Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s clever flick on the left-hand edge of the penalty area, burst into the box and proceeded to dink the ball over Thomas Kraft to make it 1-1 at the break.
Hertha started the second half determined to restore their lead and frequently looked to take advantage of Roy Beerens’ pace on the right wing against Schalke left-back Christian Fuchs. There was, then, an element of irony when it was Fuchs who had the first clear-cut chance of the half, darting into the home side’s box to collect Roman Neustädter’s through-ball, only for the Austrian international to see his shot saved.
Shortly afterwards Wellenreuther made amends for his earlier fumble by producing an outstanding save to keep out Salomon Kalou’s rasping drive from close range as the game developed into a more open encounter, with both teams searching for a winner. Yet both defences stood firm and the match appeared to be heading for a draw until a frantic finale in the closing stages.
Stocker again tested Wellenreuther with a stinging shot from the edge of the box and once more the young custodian failed to hold on to it, spilling the ball at the feet of Hertha substitute Haraguchi, who was left with a simple tap-in. Schalke should levelled matters moments later when Kraft could only block Benedikt Höwedes’ forceful header as far as Matip, but the Cameroonian somehow failed to poke the ball over the line from two yards out. Matip’s blushes were spared eventually, however, when he headed in a last-minute equaliser from Fuchs’ cross to salvage a dramatic late point.
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