Mainz - 1. FSV Mainz 05 took a huge step towards securing their Bundesliga status next season with a clinical display to earn a 2-0 victory over FC Schalke 04.
Schalke on top
The goals came from an unlikely source, as defender Stefan Bell - who had found the net just once in 62 Bundesliga appearances before this game - scored twice in quick succession to hand the home team a precious three points and leave the Ruhr club winless in five.
Having drawn four and lost one of their five Bundesliga games prior to this fixture, the visitors seemed acutely aware that they were in danger of slipping out of the European qualifying places. As such, they began as if intent on killing the game off straight away and carved out early chances for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Joel Matip and Leroy Sane, although poor finishing let them down.
Still, the Royal Blues’ well-drilled defence comfortably dealt with everything Mainz threw at them initially, although a mistake in midfield by Sane did allow Ja-Cheol Koo an effort at goal, but his 20-yard drive flew wide of the post. Schalke remained the better team, but with the half-hour mark approaching they were punished for their profligacy.
Bell strikes twice
Roberto Di Matteo’s men were not aggressive enough in defending Johannes Geis’ corner from the left and after failing to clear the ball, Bell was in the right place to prod it over the line from close range, scoring Mainz’s 400th Bundesliga goal. The centre-back grabbed his first ever brace moments later, this time heading in from another wicked Geis corner to give the hosts a comfortable, if somewhat undeserved, half-time lead.
After the break Mainz were content to sit back and look to do more damage with swift counterattacks, inviting Schalke to come at them. The visitors had no choice but to oblige and very nearly pulled a goal back when Sead Kolasinac powered to the by-line on the left and pulled the ball back for Farfan, only for the Peruvian to drag his shot wide.
Denied by the wookwork
Di Matteo tried to reinvigorate his team's attack by bringing on Leon Goretzka and Julian Draxler, but it was Mainz who came closest to scoring next. Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann was rather too casual in trying to collect a cross one-handed, and when he was robbed of the ball it fell to Koo, who hammered an effort on to the crossbar.
Mainz hit the woodwork again shortly afterwards when Geis bent a superb free-kick around the wall, but, with Fährmann well beaten, it glanced off the post and out for a goal kick. Schalke never looked like getting back into the game - although Draxler did hit the bar late on with a long-distance drive - and now face the increasingly realistic prospect of failing to qualify for Europe altogether, having failed to score for the fourth time in their last five games.
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