Gelsenkirchen - Dubbed a European six-pointer ahead of this weekend, it was Bayer 04 Leverkusen that ultimately triumphed in a hard-fought encounter with FC Schalke 04 to move six points clear of their fellow top-three hopefuls.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
bundesliga.com rounds up the post-match thoughts of the main protagonists from the Saturday evening showdown...
Karim Bellarabi: "I think everyone expected me to deliver the ball into the middle, but instead I decided to just smash it into the roof of the net. Perfectly, in my opinion. It was a great goal. I think the Atletico match was a difficult one. Going 120 minutes certainly took its toll on us today, but we showed great spirit in battling for the win. Now we’re right where we want to be in the standings. Let’s see what Gladbach do against FC Bayern. We recovered some strength in the last few days after the Atletico game, but it was a bit tough at points. We knew how important today's match was and I think that we were deserved victors, but Schalke are obviously still there or thereabouts in the chase for the UEFA Champions League places. Hakan [Calhanoglu]'s a young player, and everyone needs a break sometimes, what was more important was that we played well and every player delivered a good performance. Obviously, it's something really special for me to be called into the Germany squad and I'm delighted to be involved again."
Bernd Leno: "It means a lot that we‘re in the top three. We’re in the ascendancy with the way we’re playing right now. We were better than Schalke today."
FC Schalke 04
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar: "The match was brimming with fight and passion. We opted to play lots of long balls because Leverkusen chose to press high up the pitch, but unfortunately it didn’t work. We need to discuss our own performance. In the end, it wasn’t enough to win the match. It’s a real shame that I couldn’t finish the fantastic chance I had. The ball came to me and I hit it first time. Bernd Leno made a really good save unfortunately. We fought right until the end, but they played a little bit better in the first half when we used too many long balls. There was lots of fighting spirit but at the end something wasn't there to score the goal. It's a big blow to our hopes of qualifying for the Champions League but we still have eight more games. It will be difficult, we're now six points behind, and we have to take our chances and then we'll see what happens. We have to play better, that's the most important thing."
Christian Fuchs: "We battled right up until the final whistle and threw absolutely everything into the encounter. With time winding down it became much harder to chase after the deficit. If we'd scored the first goal, the game would have been completely different, but we also had a couple of good chances to equalise after we went 1-0 down. We have to give everything in our next game to try and climb back up the table, even though six points isn’t exactly a small gap."
Marco Höger: "It’s a very discouraging defeat. We tried everything, but were lacking the necessary effectiveness or accuracy in the final third. The six-point gap is an obstacle. We need to look to pick up as many points as possible over the coming weeks and hope that other teams slip up. Clearly we're disappointed. It was a six-point game and our fate is no longer in our own hands. We imagined today going differently but that didn't happen. Now we need to pick up as many points as possible in the last eight games. Afterwards, you can obviously see that Leverkusen had one or two more chances on goal, but it was an intense game from both teams. Neither side would have complained if it had ended 1-1. We now have to hope that other sides in the European race drop points, but nothing is impossible. Playing away to FC Augsburg is never an easy game. Just like today, it'll be difficult. We need to focus on picking up points."