FC Schalke 04 closed the gap on the UEFA Champions League places with a deserved 3-1 victory at relegated Hannover 96.
The Royal Blues, who went into the game five points off fourth-placed Hertha Berlin, took the lead on eleven minutes when Leon Goretzka’s lofted ball over the top of the home defence was slotted home by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The hosts responded well, levelling the score just nine minutes later courtesy of Artur Sobiech’s close-range finish, but Klaas Jan Huntelaar restored the visitors’ lead on the stroke of the half time after combining well with Leroy Sane.
Undeterred, Daniel Stendel's side started the second period brightly and were unlucky not to restore parity for the second time in the match when Manuel Schmiedebach rattled the post from point-blank range. Schalke had the last laugh, however, as substitute Alessandro Schöpf slid into an empty net on 80 minutes following Joel Matip’s fine solo run to lift Andre Breitenreiter's charges to within a point of Hertha.
Man of the match
Choupo-Moting’s goal against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 32 - his first in 2016 - seems to have restored some of the Cameroon international’s confidence. As well as opening the scoring at the HDI Arena, the 27-year-old was involved in more challenges than any other player (45) and in half of his team’s attempts at goal over the course of the 90 minutes.
Hannover’s fate was sealed last weekend, but Daniel Stendel’s side matched Die Knappen for long periods. Although the visitors ultimately had too much quality, the Reds have reason to be optimistic going into next season.
- Hannover registered 20 shots at goal against Schalke - their most in a single game this season.
- Schöpf clearly enjoys scoring against north German clubs, having previously netted against VfL Wolfsburg and Hamburger SV.
- Huntelaar’s 45th-minute strike was his tenth of the season. The Dutchmann has now reached double figures in four of his six campaigns in the Bundesliga.
Hannover: Zieler (c) - H. Sakai, Anton, S. Sane, Albornoz - Fossum (Prib, 86’), Schmiedebach - Sarenren-Bazee (Szalai, 76’), Kiyotake, Klaus (Sulejmani, 71’) - Sobiech
Coach: Daniel Stendel
Schalke: Fährmann - Junior Caicara (Riether), J. Matip, Neustädter, Kolasinac - Goretzka, Huojbjerg, L. Sane (Belhanda, 90’), Meyer (Schöpf, 78’), Choupo-Moting - Huntelaar (c)
Coach: Andre Breitenreiter