Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s first-minute penalty set FC Schalke 04 on their way to a frenetic 3-1 win at 1. FC Köln on Saturday that moved them into the top four.
Andre Breitenreiter had never beaten Köln as either coach or player, but could not have asked for a better platform to break that jinx - Dominic Maroh’s clumsy challenge on Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg after just 50 seconds was punished from the spot by Huntelaar.
That start could easily have soured, though. Anthony Modeste missed two gilt-edged opportunities, before Ralf Fährmann intervened smartly after Johannes Geis had inadvertently played in Leonardo Bittencourt.
Höjbjerg brought a sublime save from Timo Horn with a majestic volley, but there is little doubt the Schalke dug-out breathed a collective sigh of relief when Max Meyer doubled the Royal Blues’ lead.
Bittencourt quickly reintroduced an air of suspense by pulling one back, though within 60 seconds, Younes Belhanda had sent a volley spinning off Horn’s crossbar to suggest Schalke could reply in kind.
Fährmann moved smoothly to his right to push away a Marcel Risse free-kick shortly after the break, and Modeste was guilty of yet more wasteful finishing before Franco Di Santo’s brave near-post header ensured the three points would leave for Gelsenkirchen.
Man of the match
Fährmann was superb, Bittencourt contributed significantly, but Höjbjerg was simply excellent. The Denmark international had a hand in two goals, and showed fantastic technique to chest down and volley to force an equally breathtaking save from Horn in the first half.
With quality across the pitch, can Schalke – who have now won four and lost just one of their last seven Bundesliga games – sustain their form and grab one of the UEFA Champions League places? They certainly appear sufficiently well-armed.
- Huntelaar scored his first penalty in the Bundesliga since April 2012.
- It was the 600th goal scored in the German top flight this season.
- It was also the first goal of a Breitenreiter team against Köln.
- Bittencourt scored his first competitive goal for Köln since December 2014.
- It was the first time Köln have dropped points against Schalke since returning to the top flight in 2014.
Köln: Horn - Sörensen, Maroh, Heintz, Mladenovic (Hosiner 71’) - Lehmann, Hector - Risse, Gerhardt (Osako 84’), Bittencourt - Modeste
Schalke: Fährmann- Junior Caicara, Matip, Neustädter, Aogo - Höjbjerg, Geis (Kolasinac 78’) – Schöpf (Sane 60’), Meyer, Belhanda - Huntelaar (Di Santo 73’)