One milestone, two firsts and three important points
From a footballing point of view, Schalke’s 1-0 victory in Hannover on Sunday (31/3) was not exactly a treat. “But that wasn’t to be expected,” admitted head coach Huub Stevens. “In a situation like ours you have to fight, and the guys did that brilliantly.” The Dutchman explained that the group had been lacking confidence due to the recent negative events at the club. Therefore, the three points earned on Sunday are not only important when looking at the table, but also mentally.
Benjamin Stambouli agreed. “Three points was our aim and that is what we got. We know that we have to improve in a number of areas but the bottom line was to fight, and that’s what we did,” said the Frenchman, who was utilised unfamiliarly as a right-back due to the injuries of Daniel Caliguiri, Weston McKennie and Alessandro Schöpf.
It was however no issue for Stambouli. “The coach asked me if I can play in this position. And that’s what I did in order to help the team as best I could,” explained the 28 year old. Not only was Stambouli one of the reasons the Royal Blues kept the opposition scoreless, he also provided the assist for the match-winning goal.
Victory more important for Serdar
Suat Serdar grabbed the only goal of the game on Sunday, which marked the German U21 international’s first competitive goal in Royal Blue. “Finally I’ve scored my first goal for Schalke,” said the midfielder. “But for me, the success of the team is much more important – the victory means a lot to us.”
Serdar claimed that his goal was no fluke. “The players who didn’t go on international duty, like me, have worked intensively over the past two weeks. The plan was for the more offensive minded midfielder and the attackers to attack deeper. After receiving the ball from Stambouli I didn’t necessarily aim for the far corner. I didn’t really look at the goal, I was more focused on controlling the ball and striking it well,” said the matchwinner.
“Suat took the goal superbly,” lauded Stevens, who was also complimentary of goalkeeper Alexander Nübel’s performance. “He made some fantastic saves.” Despite several great stops and rousing cheers from the travelling fans after the full-time whistle, Nübel didn’t class himself as the matchwinner. “The whole team won,” explained the goalkeeper, who was a large reason why head coach Huub Stevens was able to secure his 100th victory in charge of Schalke 04.
Good feeling ahead of the DFB-Pokal
Stevens was unaware of the statistic ahead of the game, and for the head coach, there are more important matters. “What matters more is the victory for the boys,” explained Stevens, who handed Schalke youth product Nassim Boujellab his Bundesliga debut in the 79th minute. “I had no concerns over introducing Nassim into the game. He played very well against Sevilla,” said the coach.
Stevens is hoping that the team can now build their confidence following the weekend’s victory. “We’re going into the cup game against Bremen with a good feeling,” he said, ahead of Wednesday’s (3/4) game. Serdar agrees. “The past few weeks have been tough for us and our fans. Therefore I am happy to have secured a win on Sunday.” And one thing is clear – the fans shouldn’t have to wait as long for the next victory as they did for this one.