A strong performance and a hard-fought point

Saturday’s match between Schalke and Leverkusen had plenty to offer: unused chances, a missed penalty, a penalty that was given and then taken away, and a goal for each side. In the end, Schalke took home a hard-fought but well-deserved point after a strong second half performance.

Benjamin Stambouli gegen Kevin Volland

A strong performance in the second half was crucial, as Leverkusen set the tone during the first half. Leverkusen had a chance to take the lead in the first 15 minutes, but Charles Aranguiz’ shot hit the crossbar before Julian Brandt’s rebound attempt hit the post. Schalke were lacking in offence, and Leverkusen were able to take the lead in the 31st minute through Kai Havertz. “We couldn’t find a way to make it work at the start of the game,” said captain Benjamin Stambouli. “We told ourselves during the break that we needed to stay compact at the back, but that we couldn’t remain passive and had to press forwards.”

Solid at the back, dangerous at the other end

And, that’s exactly what they did. During the second half, Schalke were able to defend well against Leverkusen while also threatening at the opposite end of the pitch. Burgstaller scored the equalizer early in the second half, which gave the team new strength, according to Stambouli. “We were really strong in the second half, and defended well as a team.” He added: “I like it when we need to fight for the ball.”

Omar Mascarell, who ran a team-high 12.6 km during the match, echoed the praise for the team’s mindset. “In the second half, we fought as a team and were compact,” said the midfielder. “We picked up a point against a strong team that is fighting for a Champions League spot. We told ourselves during the break that we would be able to come back—which we did.”

We have not had much to celebrate this season, which is why it would be really great to end the season with a win.

Guido Burgstaller

Now, the team’s focus has shifted to the final match of the season against VfB Stuttgart on Saturday 18th April. Despite the game not having an big impact on the standings—Stuttgart are guaranteed to finish in the relegation playoff spot—Schalke are going in with the aim of taking all three points up for grabs in the VELTINS-Arena. “We want to give something back to the fans in return for their great support this season,” said Guido Burgstaller, who scored for the fourth time in three games against Leverkusen. “We have not had much to celebrate this season, which is why it would be really great to end the season with a win. If we play the way we did during the second half today, then I have a really good feeling about it,” Burgstaller said.

Saying goodbye to Huub Stevens with a win

What matters now is ending the season with a win, not only as a fitting goodbye to head coach Huub Stevens, but also to go into the summer break on a high note. “We didn’t achieve what we could have this season,” said Bastian Oczipka. “We want to turn things around. That’s the task ahead of us,” said the left-back, who promised “That’s what we will accomplish next season.”