Defences were on top in Bavaria on Sunday as Augsburg and Schalke shared the points in a 0-0 draw
Defences were on top in Bavaria on Sunday as Augsburg and Schalke shared the points in a 0-0 draw

Schalke lose ground in race for Champions League qualification

Augsburg - Neither FC Augsburg nor FC Schalke 04 were able to edge ahead in the battle for European qualification, with both sides left frustrated after sharing the points in a 0-0 draw on Sunday afternoon.

Augsburg on top

Each had chances to seal the victory in an end-to-end affair, although a combination of resolute defending and poor finishing ensured the game finished goalless.

It was a day of comebacks at the SGL Arena. Augsburg captain Paul Verhaegh returning for the hosts after two months out, while Schalke coach Roberto Di Matteo recalled fit-again No1 Ralf Fährmann between the posts and handed attacking midfielder Leon Goretzka his first start of the season. And with just a point separating the teams ahead of kick-off, it was a predictably full-blooded affair in the opening period, with neither wanting to cede any ground in the race for a European spot.

Once the match settled into a rhythm, however, it was the hosts who were initially the better side. They frequently forced Schalke on to the back foot, with defenders Joel Matip and Matija Nastasic picking up bookings for desperate last-ditch tackles. Caiuby’s clever movement and Raul Bobadilla’s physical presence caused the visitors constant problems, although Schalke largely restricted them to long-range shots.

Chances for Schalke

Schalke also had their moments going forward, however. Goretzka missed an early chance with a cheeky attempted lob, while Tranquillo Barnetta and Dennis Aogo had thundering drives blocked following neat interplay on the edge of the penalty area. Indeed, come the half-time whistle, goals were the only thing missing from an otherwise entertaining encounter.

Schalke re-emerged for the second half in bullish mood and began imposing themselves on the match with increasing authority. The introduction of Jefferson Farfan on the right wing gave their game a different dimension and the Royal Blues soon had chances to make their dominance count. Farfan narrowly missed Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s cross from the left, before Klaas-Jun Huntelaar fired straight at Augsburg keeper Marwin Hitz when free in front of goal.

Nothing in it

Both teams continued to search for a winner in the closing period, but sloppy passing in the final third invariably led to attacks petering out. Huntelaar created some space for himself on the edge of the box with some tidy footwork before having another pot-shot saved by Hitz, while at the other edge of the pitch Tobias Werner tested Fährmann from distance with a stinging left-footed effort.

Bobadilla also twice went close with 25-yard free-kicks but, in truth, neither side deserved to win on the balance of play. Schalke will undoubtedly be the more disappointed of the two, however, as the result leaves them eight points behind fourth-placed Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the final UEFA Champions League qualifying spot.

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