Pjaca scores on full debut but Schalke held by Hannover
The Royal Blues missed their chance to claim a first win of 2018 on Sunday by conceding a late equaliser to Hannover 96 in the Veltins Arena. January loan signing Marko Pjaca had scored on his full debut for Domenico Tedesco’s side, only for Niclas Füllkrug to poke home a late leveler.
Three changes in the starting XI – and a 1-0 half time lead
There were three differences from the side which lost in Leipzig last week as Thilo Kehrer, Leon Goretzka and Marko Pjaca came in for Benjamin Stambouli, Franco di Santo and Daniel Caligiuri.
It didn’t take new man Pjaca long to make an impact in front of his new fans, although it did take the Royal Blues a quarter of an hour to make their early possession count with chances. The first chance brought the first goal, as Pjaca finished off a lovely piece of football from Amine Harit to turn his man and roll in the opener to the delight of the home crowd.
There were few other major chances in the first half, though it was the visitors who came closest to finding the net, when Felix Kalus rattled the post from 20 yards out. Despite not having a clear chance for the remainder of the half, Schalke’s possession and control of the contest meant they still deserved their lead when the break came..
Hannover strike late to claim a point
Both teams came out for the restart and set their stall out to remain tight and compact at the back, meaning as with the first period there were very few chances of notes in the penalty area. The away side grew into the game more but were unable to fashion an opening until the 70th minute, when Ihlas Bebou forced his way into the box to set up Martin Harnik, who produced a wonderful save from Ralph Fährmann in the Royal Blue goal.
The away side had almost equalized from nothing, and they continued to look for a point in the closing stages after the introductions of Martin Harnik and Charlison Benschop. It was Niclas Füllkrug who made the Royal Blues pay, poking home at the second attempt from a left-wing cross with just under five minutes to go, leaving Fährmann with no chance and ensuring the match finished 1-1.
Schalke stay third
The draw was definitely frustrating from a Schalke perspective. The Royal Blues were simply unable to convert their chances when they were on top, despite being rarely troubled at the back, and it took just one slip for the visitors to make the most of their opportunity. Schalke move up to third in the table with 31 points after matchday 19, but a win would have taken them above Bayer Leverkusen and in to second.
Schalke face another of this season’s promoted sides next Saturday, as they make the trip to Stuttgart for a 15:30 kick off.