SC Freiburg rose to fifth place in the Bundesliga and remain on course for Europe after a first-half double from Florian Niederlechner helped Christian Streich's charges to a 2-0 triumph against Schalke 04.
Boasting more wins against Schalke than any other top-flight team, Freiburg appeared hungry to add to those 12 victories as the rain fell on Germany’s Black Forest region. Following some smart build-up play in the 22nd minute, Streich’s men hit the front, Niederlechner combining with Janik Haberer before beating the diving Ralf Fährmann for 1-0. Previously on loan at Freiburg from Mainz, Niederlechner made the switch a permanent one during the week and he celebrated with a second goal against Schalke, the forward stroking home from the penalty spot after Sead Kolasinac fouled Maximilian Philipp in the area.
Schalke enjoyed a record win on the road against Bayer Leverkusen last week yet successive away wins looked beyond the Royal Blues with Niederlechner taking his fine form into the second half. Goalkeeper Fährmann denied the attacker with a fine, angled save and would later help his team again, blocking from Nils Petersen who ran clean through on goal. Prior to that, Schalke briefly threatened with Leon Goretzka testing Alexander Schwolow before substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar sent an effort over the top. But Freiburg were not to be denied and their hopes of a European finish remain very much alive.
Man of the match
After registering his tenth Bundesliga goal of the season to put Freiburg ahead, Niederlechner coolly rolled home a penalty that served as a hammer blow to Schalke's collective morale and set the hosts on their way to a tenth home win.
Having come up as Bundesliga 2 champions last season, top-flight survival was surely Freiburg's pre-season goal for the current campaign. Yet with final games against Ingolstadt and champions FC Bayern Munich to come, Streich's charges remain on course for a stunning achievement of European qualification.
- Niederlechner has a 100% record from the penalty spot in the Bundesliga, converting all three of his spot kicks.
- The 26-year-old Freiburg attacker has now scored three goals in his last two games against Schalke.
- No team has ever qualified for European competition from the Bundesliga with a goal difference of -15, Freiburg's current tally.
Freiburg: Schwolow - Ignjovski, Gulde, Kempf, Günter - Bulut (Stenzel 88'), Höfler, Abrashi, Haberer - Philipp (Petersen 69'), Niederlechner (Grifo 75')
Coach: Christian Streich
Schalke: Fährmann - Coke, Höwedes, Badstuber, Kolasinac - Stambouli (Huntelaar 46'), Bentaleb - Caligiuri (Di Santo 76'), Goretzka, Konoplyanka (Avdijaj 61')- Burgstaller
Coach: Markus Weinzierl
Watch: Two-goal hero Niederlechner on Freiburg's excellent win
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