A strong reaction, but still no points

FC Schalke 04 put in a very different performance against Werder Bremen on Friday (8/3) than they did against Fortuna Düsseldorf last week. The encouraging performance, however, wasn’t rewarded with any points, as S04 slipped to a 4-2 defeat.

Four changes to the starting XI

Breel Embolo, who made his return from a three-month injury against Fortuna Düsseldorf last weekend, was included in the starting XI for the first time since November. The striker replaced Mark Uth. Bastian Oczipka and Weston McKennie both returned from their knocks too, replacing Hamza Mendyl and Salif Sané. The other change to the side saw Steven Skrzybski take Amine Harit’s place in the side.

Rashica answers Embolo’s opener

The crowd in the Weser-Stadion saw an exciting start to Friday’s game, with a number of big tackles and shots on display. Maxmilian Eggestein had the first chance after first minutes, driving a shot just past Nübel’s post. Guido Burgstaller then could have put Schalke 1-0 up. After a nice ball into the box from Breel Embolo, he saw his close-range shot blocked by Jiri Pavlenka. The Czech keeper was there again after twelve minutes, punching away a dangerous Daniel Caligiuri free-kick. Matija Nastasic then had the next opportunity – which Pavlenka denied again in the 20th minute. At the other end, Max Kruse couldn’t test out Alexander Nübel, although his shot wasn’t far away from the goal.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 26th minute: Weston McKennie flicked on a pass from Bastian Oczipka and Breel Embolo latched on to it, before calmly slotting past Pavlenka to give the guests the lead. Steven Skrzybski could have then made it 2-0 moments later. He got in behind after a long ball from Stambouli, but his shot just missed the far post. Instead of Schalke celebrating again, Werder were soon at it. Out of nowhere, Milot Rashica equalised in the 31st minute. The Kosovan international was in the right place to convert a Max Kruse cross, meaning that the game went in level at half-time.

Penalty swings things in Werder's favour

Shortly after the halftime break things all got a bit confusing. Following a Rashica cross, the ball was redirected to Davy Klaassen who tried his luck at goal. Benjamin Stambouli cleared the danger off the line, and Maximilian Eggestein then fired the rebound wide. Seconds later referee Martin Petersen put his hand to his ear to suggest that the video assistants had seen something in the passage of play. Petersen proceeded over to the VAR area to have another look. In the process he judged Jeffery Bruma to have committed a foul on Max Kruse, which barely a single person in the stadium could get their heads around. He pointed to the spot and Max Kruse did not let the golden opportunity pass him by. The former Germany international sent Alexander Nübel the wrong way and made it 2-1 (51′).

The Royal Blues clearly needed a bit of time to recoup themselves after the decision, but then re-applied their collective foot to the gas pedal. It was almost rewarded, but Pavlenka made a strong save once again. With a dangerous shot from Skrzybski coming at him, the Czech goalkeeper reached up with his fists to clear the danger for a corner (62′). However, instead of a Schalke breakthrough, the fourth goal of the night came at the other end. It was Rashica who once again pulled away in celebration, who was played in by a header from Maxi Eggestein and then finished from a short distance out (73′). Shortly afterwards Max Kruse had what would surely have been the nail in the coffin at his feet, but the brilliant reflexes of Nübel denied him.

Finally, in the 85th minute, Pavlenka had to pick the ball out from his own net. Embolo beat the goalkeeper with a header off a corner from Ocipzka to pull Schalke back within one. The goal gave the Knappen renewed hope of securing some points, but the story was to take yet another twist. In the fourth minute of extra time, Martin Harnik got behind the defence to make the final score 4-2.

First up Champions League against City, then Leipzig make the trip to the Veltins-Arena

Schalke’s next Bundesliga fixture comes next Saturday against RB Leipzig (16.3). Ahead of that clash, however, the Royal Blues have another very important task on the agenda. In the second leg of the Champions League Last 16 tie against Manchester City, Schalke will be looking to cause an upset. The first leg saw the English side go back home to Manchester with a 3-2 win.

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