Schalke celebrated their first win at Hertha Berlin in four seasons on Saturday.
Schalke celebrated their first win at Hertha Berlin in four seasons on Saturday.

Schalke rediscover their groove as Leon Goretzka shines again

After three games without a win, Matchday 8’s 2-0 victory at Hertha Berlin was pretty much the perfect afternoon for Schalke.

The Royal Blues were well beaten on their last away trip at Hoffenheim, and produced a nervous, at times error-strewn display last time out at home to Bayer Leverkusen. How encouraging for coach Domenico Tedesco, then, that his players appeared to find their rhythm immediately at the Olympiastadion.

The visitors controlled proceedings from start to finish, and the hosts, reduced to ten men after Genki Haraguchi’s wild challenge on Guido Burgstaller, left the pitch having not created a single chance from open play. “That pleases me more than the fact we dominated possession for so long,” said a satisfied Tedesco post-game. “When you have a lot of the ball, you run the risk of being counter-attacked. But we managed to stop that at source.”

The 32-year-old coach had plenty of other reasons to be cheerful, not least that his choice of personnel and formation appeared to pay rich dividends. Max Meyer occupied a central midfield role, with Amine Harit and the in-form Leon Goretzka as twin attacking midfielders. In front of them, Tedesco sprang another surprise by playing two strikers, with Franco Di Santo partnering Burgstaller.

Watch: Leon Goretzka - a Rolls Royce in top gear

Meyer did “a very, very good job” in his deeper role, according to Tedesco, while Harit and Goretzka left their mark on the game, the former winning a penalty and the latter converting it for his third goal of the campaign. Goretzka, who also netted a brace for Germany last week, is now Schalke’s leading scorer this season and showing on a weekly basis why he is so highly rated.

“It’s never easy to win in Berlin,” said the 21-year-old afterwards, “but they gave us some added motivation when they said that their big tests would come after this game. Even before the red card we were dominant. I’d only previously taken penalties in training, but I’ve always said I’m ready to take responsibility and that’s what I did.”

Their mini slump apparently over, the Royal Blues will now be spying an ideal opportunity to continue a respectable start to the season that has yielded four wins from eight league games. Fifth in the standings, they now have two home matches, against Mainz and Wolfsburg, where victories could potentially send them into the top four.

Of course, there is a long way to go and nobody will be getting carried away just yet. But after their last win at Hertha just under four years ago, they went on to finish third in the table. The omens, at present, are good for the Royal Blues.

Bernie Reeves

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