Schalke consolidated their position in the top four with a hard-earned win at home to Hertha Berlin.
Schalke 1-0 Hertha Berlin
Goals: 1-0 Pjaca (37')
There was no shortage of goalmouth activity in the first-half at the Veltins Arena. Hertha goalkeeper Rune Jarstein had to be alert to keep out a cross-turned-shot from Daniel Caligiuri and Marko Pjaca's fierce drive, before Schalke counterpart Ralf Fährmann was called on to deny Davie Selke. Niklas Stark spurned a glorious opening to to put Hertha in front in the 15th minute, firing at the prone Fährmann when it looked easier to score. That miss proved costly, as Franco Di Santo touched a Caligiuri cross into the path of Juventus loanee Pjaca, who fired home first time to give the Royal Blues the lead.
Hertha turned the screw after the restart but, much like the resistance they put up in holding Bayern Munich to a goalless draw last weekend, Schalke were in no mood to concede. Karim Rekik's header from a Valentino Lazaro corner was the closest the Old Lady came to levelling, despite Lazaro later testing Fährmann and Salomon Kalou having a goal-bound effort charged down by a blue shirt. USA international Weston McKennie entered the fray late on after missing five games through injury, Domenico Tedesco's shut-up-shop strategy seeing Schalke over the line and, temporarily at least, up to second in the standings.
Watch: The players Tedesco has improved at Schalke!
- Schalke have only lost twice at home all season - to Bayern and Werder Bremen.Pjaca scored his second Bundesliga goal on his second start. The Croatia international also had more efforts on goal (five) than the entire Hertha team in the first half.Di Santo registered his first assist of the season for Pjaca's opener.McKennie returned to the Schalke squad for the first time since Matchday 19.Schalke have both conceded 30 goals so far this season - only Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt and Stuttgart boast meaner defences.Hertha head coach Pal Dardai played his first and final Bundesliga games against Schalke.
Schalke: Fährmann (c) - Stambouli, Naldo, Nastasic - Caligiuri, Meyer (Konoplyanka 89'), Bentaleb, Oczipka – Embolo (McKennie 80'), Di Santo, Pjaca (Schöpf 67')
Unused subs: Nübel, Insua, Riether, Harit
Absentees: Baba (fitness), Burgstaller (one-match ban), Goretzka (foot), Kehrer (ill), Teuchert (knee)
Coach: Domenico Tedesco
Hertha: Jarstein - Pekarik (c) (Mittelstädt 79'), Stark, Rekik, Plattenhardt - Maier (Duda 63'), Lustenberger - Leckie, Lazaro, Kalou - Selke (Ibisevic (73')
Unused subs: Kraft, Skjelbred, Esswein, Weiser
Absentees: Darida (ill), Kade (ankle), Schieber (muscular), Torunarigha (illness)
Coach: Pal Dardai
Watch: Di Santo: "We are a team"