Schalke kept their hopes of European qualification alive with a morale-boosting 4-1 win away to Bayer Leverkusen in the Matchday 31 opener on Friday evening.
Bayer Leverkusen 1-4 Schalke
The match started at a furious pace at the BayArena, and although the hosts initially had more possession and the first clear sight of goal through Julian Brandt, they were 3-0 down after just 18 minutes as Guido Burgstaller, Benedikt Höwedes and Alessandro Schöpf ruthlessly made the most of the visitors' chances. Leverkusen tried to claw their way back into the game, but were constantly forced onto the back foot by Schalke's rapid counter-attacks.
The home side went close to pulling a goal back within seconds of the restart after the break, but Karim Bellarabi dragged his shot narrowly wide. They would be punished for that miss moments later when Burgstaller killed off any lingering hopes of a comeback with a superb volley from Schöpf's free-kick. Stefan Kießling netted a consolation with a brave header following good work by Bellarabi, but it was too little too late as the Royal Blues earned just their third away win of the season.
Man of the match
Leverkusen simply could not handle Burgstaller here. The Austrian forward was an elusive presence, constantly popping up in space between defenders and rewarding an impressive performance with clinical goals.
Having won just one of their previous five Bundesliga outings prior to this game, this victory will be a welcome tonic for Schalke, who remain in the hunt for a UEFA Europa League qualification spot. Leverkusen, meanwhile, will be looking nervously over their shoulders towards the relegation places.
- Leverkusen have now conceded a league-high 18 goals from set pieces this season.Burgstaller netted his third Bundesliga brace in this game.Leverkusen had won each of the previous 14 games in which Kießling scored – a run that has now come to an end.
Leverkusen: Leno – Hilbert (Wendell 46'), Jedvaj, Toprak (Tah 19'), Henrichs – Brandt (Mehmedi 85'), Aranguiz, Kampl, Bellarabi – Kießling, Volland
Coach: Tayfun Korkut
Schalke: Fährmann – Coke, Höwedes, Badstuber, Kolasinac (Aogo 74') – Stambouli, Bentaleb (Riether 84') – Schöpf, Goretzka, Caligiuri - Burgstaller
Coach: Markus Weinzierl
Watch: Bentaleb says Schalke could have won by more!