FC Schalke 04 booked their place in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 with a 1-0 victory in a one-sided encounter at home to APOEL FC in Group K.
Goals: 1-0 Choupo-Moting (86’)
Having lined-up with a five-man backline against FC Bayern München at the weekend, Schalke threw off the shackles here as coach Andre Breitenreiter went for all-out attack. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Leroy Sane, Franco Di Santo and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting were all in the starting XI and the dominant Royal Blues duly poured forward at every opportunity. A goal seemed to be just a matter of time as several chances went begging, but the hosts were unable to find the net before the break.
Schalke continued to dominate in the second period, but with their visitors now man-marking Johannes Geis and also sitting deeper in their own half, Breitenreiter’s men struggled to carve out more clear-cut openings. Indeed, APOEL had the better chances after the interval and the hosts had goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann to thank for keeping them in the game with an outstanding save. A surge of Schalke pressure in the closing stages paid off, however, with Choupo-Moting finishing an excellent cross from substitute Sascha Riether. Dennis Aogo even missed a late penalty, but it was of little consequence as Schalke held on for a valuable victory.
Man of the match
Just like many of Schalke’s opponents this season, APOEL failed to keep tabs on Sane. The 19-year-old was the hosts’ most potent attacking outlet at the VELTINS Arena, with his pace, directness and eagerness to beat his marker causing the Cypriots trouble throughout.
Schalke remain unbeaten in the competition this season and while they have now reached the knockout rounds, they must beat Asteras FC away in their final fixture to be sure of progressing as Group K winners.
- Schalke had 27 shots on goal to APOEL’s eight.
- Aogo was in possession more often than any other player (91 touches).
- The Royal Blues won 14 corners compared to APOEL’s two.
Schalke: Fährmann – Caicara (Riether 83’), Matip, Neustädter, Aogo – Geis (Höjbjerg 79’), Goretzka – Di Santo (Meyer 62’), Choupo-Moting, Sane – Huntelaar (c)
APOEL: Waterman – Sergio, Guilherme, Carlao, Antoniades (Astiz 31’) – Morais – Artymatas, Vinicius – Charalambides (c) (Vander 76’), Sotiriou (Makridis 54’), De Vincenti