FC Schalke 04 put their slow start to the Bundesliga season to one side on the French Riviera with a 1-0 victory over OGC Nice in their opening UEFA Europa League Group I fixture on Thursday night.
Goals: 0-1 Baba (75')
Buoyed by an impressive display at home to FC Bayern München at the weekend – despite the 2-0 defeat - Schalke began confidently and immediately went on the front foot. Their high pressing caused Nice several problems at the back and Markus Weinzierl's charges could have gone ahead before the break, only for Leon Goretzka and Breel Embolo to squander promising openings.
Schalke remained in control of proceedings after the interval too, but the match appeared to be heading for a draw as they laboured against a resolute home defence. A moment of brilliance changed all that, however, Abdul Rahman Baba drilling in from an angle following a neat one-two on the edge of the box with Max Meyer to give the visitors a much-needed win against arguably their toughest opponent in the group.
Man of the match
Meyer added a much-needed spark to Schalke's attack when he entered the pitch as a 53rd-minute substitute, and it was his clever run and pass that allowed the guests to score.
Schalke's league results may not show it yet, but this match was further confirmation that the Royal Blues are laying some strong foundations this season. Unforgiving at the back and with a wealth of nimble-footed attackers to share the workload, Weinzierl's troops should not be written off yet.
- Baba scored his first goal for the club since joining in the summer.Younes Belhanda, who was on loan at Schalke last season, appeared as a second-half substitute for Nice.Schalke enjoyed 55 per cent of possession.
Nice: Cardinale – Pereira, Baysse (c), Dante, Dalbert (Belhanda 81') – Sarr, Koziello (Bodmer 67'), Seri, Cyprien – Plea, Balotelli
Coach: Lucien Favre
Schalke: Fährmann – Höwedes (c), Naldo, Nastasic, Baba – Stambouli (Meyer 58'), Bentaleb – Schöpf (Konoplyanka 53'), Goretzka (Kolasinac 90'), Choupo-Moting - Embolo
Coach: Markus Weinzierl