Caligiuri scores brace as Schalke win opening match of 2019

FC Schalke 04 have started the New Year with a victory at home to VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday evening. Daniel Caligiuri scored a brace as the Royal Blues secured a 2-1 victory in the VELTINS-Arena. After Caligiuri opened the scoring (8‘), Elvis Rexhbecaj equalised for the visitors (20‘) before the Schalke wing-back sealed the victory in the 78th minute.

Uth celebrates comeback from injury, Nübel starts in goal

After missing the last two months with injury, Mark Uth returned to the Schalke starting lineup to face Wolfsburg. Salif Sané also started after recovering from an injury sustained in the winter training camp in Benidorm. Schalke head coach Domenico Tedesco also opted to start Alexander Nübel in goal as Benjamin Stambouli captained the team.

The Royal Blues were also missing Nabil Bentaleb (thigh injury), Guido Burgstaller (Achilles injury), Breel Embolo (fractured metatarsal), Amine Harit (muscle strain) and Yevhen Konoplyanka (infection).

Caligiuri scores from the penalty spot, Rexhbecaj equalises

Nübel made a fine save in the opening stages to prevent the hosts conceding an early goal, tipping a Admir Mehmedi header over the bar (5’). Schalke created their first chance of the match just moments later as Alessandro Schöpf won a penalty for the hosts. The Austrian was fouled in the box by Wolfsburg defender William and an ice cool Daniel Caligiuri stepped up to give the hosts an early leader (8’).

The Royal Blues were in the ascendancy following the penalty and Steven Skrzybski almost doubled Schalke’s lead with a long distance shot which fell just wide of the far post (13’). However, Wolfsburg refused to allow the hosts to dominate the match and equalised in the 20th minute. Renato Steffen got on the end of a Mehmedi cross and fired a header on to the far post. The ball then bounced straight into the path of Elvis Rexhbecaj, who fired home to draw the Wolves level.

After the equaliser, Wolfsburg dominated the play and the Royal Blues were forced back into defence but didn’t let much through. However, Nübel was forced into action again in the 27th minute to deny Yannick Gerhardt, who had broken into the box and was one-on-one with the Schalke goalkeeper. At the other end, Matija Nastastic created a big chance to restore Schalke’s lead before half-time. However, the Serbian was unable to make the right connection with the ball after making space in the box and getting on the end of a Caligiuri free-kick (39’).

Caligiuri’s second goal seals the win

Schalke began the second half strongly, with Weston McKennie dribbling down the left-hand side and putting a dangerous cross in for Mark Uth. His header was brilliantly saved by Koen Casteels (50’). The following corner, taken by Caligiuri, was headed onto the crossbar by Sebastian Rudy. McKennie then saw his shot fly just past the far post moments later.

The game quieted down and there were few chances to speak of, although Schalke had more possession than in the first half. The longer the game went on, the closer Schalke got to the Wolfsburg goal and they finally got the breakthrough in the 78th minute. Weston McKennie burst through the midfield at pace and played it wide to Caligiuri, who cut inside and hammered home to make it 2-1.

Wolfsburg pushed forwards in the closing stages, but the Royal Blues’ defence stayed compact. The only chance the visitors had was when John Anthony Brooks had an opportunity in the 89th minute. Thankfully he dragged it wide and then Schalke had two more chances of their own. Suat Serdar got in behind and squared it for Haji Wright, who couldn’t get his effort on target. Ahmed Kutucu then tested Koen Casteels, before the referee blew for a deserved Schalke win.

Friday night game in Berlin

The first away game of the year is next Friday (25/01) in the capital at Hertha BSC. The game in the Olympiastadion begins at 20:30 CET. The next home game is against Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, 02/02, 18:30 CET).

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