Goals from 20-year-old Julian Draxler and Joel Matip (22) showed the Royal Blues the way on Matchday 6 in Group E, helping the club to a comfortable as much as crucial 2-0 victory at the sold-out Veltins Arena.
Draxler: 'Best when under pressure'
Recent defeats in both the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup had put Jens Keller's team under increased pressure ahead of Wednesday's encounter, a game that midfield star Kevin-Prince Boateng had labelled "probably our most important game of the season". Indeed, die Knappen left little doubt they were well aware of the game's significance both on and off the pitch. "We were under a lot of pressure," admitted Draxler after the win. "We knew how important this game was. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric."
Jens Keller's men, however, have proved several times this season they are possibly strongest with their backs to the wall, having managed to bounce back from seemingly grave defeats on several occasions. "We seem to be at our best when we're written off," claimed Draxler, despite admitting that playing a ten-man Basel side for an hour following a red card to the visitors' Ivan Ivanov was a welcome slice of good luck. "We started the game nervously, but we were well in charge after the sending-off," said the Germany international.
Matip hopes for domestic boost
Draxler's opening goal on 51 minutes was the strike the hosts needed in order to relieve some of the tension building on the anxious-looking home side, which had enjoyed the lion's share of possession but were guilty of missing a number of good opportunities. "I tried to stay cool and not hit it too strong, though I was a bit fortunate the ball went in," Draxler said of his goal, a controlled finish from a fine Jefferson Farfan cross.
Matip then all but sealed the three points for Keller's charges just before the hour mark with another calm finish from that man Farfan. Germany-born Cameroon defender Matip later expressed his joy at not only prolonging Schalke's stay in Europe's premier club competition but also helping the Ruhr valley side end a streak of rollercoaster results in recent weeks. "We're extremely happy to have won such an important game. That should give us a boost for the next few matches."
Despite the positive outcome, it wasn't all sunshine and roses for Schalke on Wednesday night, as both Draxler and skipper Benedikt Höwedes tore muscles against Basel which are likely to keep the two out for the rest of the year.
Still, the thought of singing along to the Champions League anthem at least two more times in the New Year should make their spells of convalescence that much more bearable.
Markus Hoffmann / Felix Seaman-Höschele