57,126 fans watch 3-0 home win over Heidenheim

Another three points for the Royal Blues! 57,126 fans packed the VELTINS-Arena on Saturday (09/04) as FC Schalke 04 claimed a 3-0 win over 1. FC Heidenheim. Goals from Dominick Drexler (35'), Ko Itakura (52') and Simon Terodde (90+6') made it 04 consecutive victories since Mike Büskens took charge.

Three changes to the starting XI

Mike Büskens brought three new faces into his starting line-up compared to the 2-1 win in Dresden. Rodrigo Zalazar returned after recovering from a bruised foot and replaced Florian Flick in midfield, meaning Danny Latza took on a more defensive role alongside Ko Itakura. Kerim Calhanoglu came in for left-back Thomas Ouwejan, who was missing with muscular problems, while Henning Matriciani started on the right of the defence. The 22-year-old replaced Marius Lode, who like Victor Pálsson was unavailable after testing positive for Covid-19.

Drexler’s header puts Schalke ahead

After a hair-raising tifo in the Nordkurve to kick off the game, the fans at the VELTINS-Arena saw a fairly even first 45 unfold. Both sets of defences kept things tight at the back in the opening exchanges until Martin Fraisl had to make a fine double save to keep out Jan Schöppner’s fizzing shot and then the rebound from Tim Kleindienst (9’). The Royal Blues produced their maiden effort just four minutes later, although Henning Matriciani’s low shot didn’t test the visiting goalkeeper.

Andreas Geipl also missed the target with a long-range strike in the 17th minute, with Maurice Malone forcing Martin Fraisl into making a save just minutes later after a volley from inside the area (20’). Kevin Sessa also tried his luck following a throw-in, but only managed to hit the side-netting (25’). Fraisl then had to receive treatment after rolling his ankle, but was able to continue.

The crowd at the VELTINS-Arena were on their feet celebrating in the 35th minute, as Dominick Drexler opened the scoring for the hosts. Heidenheim’s Oliver Hüsing tried to clear a corner with his head, but instead flicked it on to Drexler, who deftly placed a header over FCH goalkeeper Kevin Müller. The Royal Blues went into the break with a 1-0 lead in hand.

Itakura doubles the lead in style

The first chance after the restart fell to the visitors. Geipl’s shot was too hot to handle initially for Martin Freisl, but he was able to quickly scurry and collect the loose ball (49’). No more than three minutes later, the ball was in the back of the Heidenheim net. Drexler played the ball to Ko Itakura, who beat his man twice with two clever turns before brilliantly slamming the ball low into the far corner – a simply wonderful goal from the Japan international.

Buoyed from his goal, Itakura fancied his chances for another wonder strike in the 55th minute, lining up a long-ranger that FCH goalkeeper Kevin Müller had to tip away at full stretch. Back down the other end, the away side thought they had pulled a goal back through Christian Kühlwetter, but a VAR review spotted an offside in the build-up and it was duly chalked off (63’).

Roared on by the incredible home support, Schalke refused to take their foot off the gas as the game wore on, and substitute Florian Flick almost made it 3-0 with a bouncing shot in the 76th minute, only for it to be deflected narrowly wide of the post. Simon Terodde had his first opportunity less than 60 seconds later too, although he couldn’t get enough power behind his left-footed shot after Zalazar had picked him out with a low cross.

Heidenheim weren’t without their opportunities in the closing stages though. Stefan Schimmer should have halved the deficit in the 79th minute, but fired wide with the goal at his mercy. Tim Kleindienst then had a good chance from a header five minutes after, again he couldn’t test Fraisl with it though. Flick was soon causing problems once again in the Heidenheim box but his second chance was kept out by Müller this time (87’). There was to be a third Schalke goal late in the day though. Blendi Idrizi’s pinpoint cross found the head of Terodde, and there was little doubt about the outcome from inside the six-yard box (90+6’).

Easter Sunday in Darmstadt

The Royal Blues are in action again on Easter Sunday (17/04) away at the Lilies. Kick-off against SV Darmstadt at the Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor is at 13:30 CEST. Another crunch match follows six days later on Saturday, 23rd April, with Werder Bremen the visitors to the VELTINS-Arena at 13:30 CEST.

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