Nicosia - Two clinical Klaas Jan Huntelaar strikes helped FC Schalke 04 to victory in their UEFA Europa League curtain raiser at APOEL on Thursday.
APOEL FC 0-3 FC SCHALKE 04
0-1 Matip (28’), 0-2 Huntelaar (35’), 0-3 Huntelaar (71')
Schalke might have expected more of a test from a side which, like them, had featured in the UEFA Champions League in recent seasons, but the visitors were always on top. Johannes Geis clipped the woodwork before Joel Matip glanced a Geis free-kick beyond a flailing Boy Waterman, who was beaten again soon after by Huntelaar. Known for his predatory instincts inside the box, the Netherlands international’s fine long-range strike was all the more notable for its rarity.
Otherwise unemployed before the break, Ralf Fährmann had to race from his goal to smother from Pieros Sotiriou shortly before the interval, but a Dennis Aogo free-kick that flashed just wide of the target early in the second half helped the visitors reassert themselves. Leroy Sane shot wide, but Huntelaar was unerringly accurate with the low drive that gave Andre Breitenreiter's men a third. Tomas De Vincenti's dismissal 13 minutes from time capped a miserable night for the Cypriot hosts.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Huntelaar was back to his confident, clinical best in claiming a brace of the very highest calibre.
Huntelaar now has five goals in six competitive outings this season. If the prolific Dutchman can remain in this rich vein of form in front of goal, Schalke's chances of a top-four finish will improve significantly.
- Schalke's victory was their third successive away triumph in UEFA competition.
- Huntelaar now has 48 goals in 73 European games.
- Unused substitute Benedikt Höwedes returned to the Schalke squad after 124 days out.
APOEL: Waterman - Mario Sergio, Astiz, Carlao, Antoniadis (Artymatas 23’) - Vinicius (Stilic 62’), Nuno Morais - Makridis, De Vincenti - Vander, Sotiriou (Cavenaghi 56’)
Schalke: Fährmann - Junior Caicara, Matip, Neustädter, Aogo - Goretzka, Geis (Höger 61’) - Sane (Sam 80’), Meyer - Di Santo, Huntelaar (Hjöbjerg 75’)