"We will get out of this situation together!"
Immediately after Eintracht Frankfurt stole all three points in the ninth minute of stoppage time on Saturday, the fans continued to chant long after full-time. Shortly afterwards, the team were greeted with applause. Unfortunately, the 2-1 defeat in the VELTINS-Arena meant FC Schalke 04 had nothing to celebrate but the fans in the stands can feel encouraged from the team’s performance.
The match was decided by the events that occurred in ten minutes of second half stoppage time. The Royal Blues were on course to secure a deserved point at home against the inform Eintracht Frankfurt. However, after consulting the video assistant, referee Sascha Stegemann pointed to the spot as Daniel Caligiuri was adjudged to have handled the ball from a Filip Kostic shot. Luka Jovic stroked the penalty home in the 99th minute, the latest penalty to have ever been recorded since data collections started in the 2004/05 season.
Comeback eventually comes to no avail
Just a few moments before the penalty was awarded, Suat Serdar had been sent off after receiving a second yellow card. Caligiuri’s comeback from injury also had no happy ending. After picking up a nasty ankle sprain in Bremen four weeks ago, the full-back returned to play for the entire match. “For me, it wasn’t a penalty,” explained the German-Italian. “I wanted come out to attack the ball, felt a push from an opposition and then the ball hit my shoulder and hand.” The referee didn’t agree and after consulting the VAR gave Frankfurt a penalty. The visitors also had a shout for a penalty turned down in the first half after a collision in the box between Jeffrey Bruma and Ante Rebic.
Rebic was also on hand to break the deadlock after 13 minutes to give Frankfurt a deserved lead based on the opening stages of the match. Eintracht were looking to build upon a good run of form which has seen the Eagles go on a 14 match unbeaten run. On the other hand, the Royal Blues, who had been knocked out of the DFB-Pokal by Werder Bremen in mid-week, were lacking “crispness in the opening 15 minutes. We made life difficult for ourselves,” analysed Schalke head coach Huub Stevens, who included youngster Nassim Boujellab in the starting lineup. The 19-year-old midfielder signed his first professional contract with the club until 2022 in the build-up to this match.
Surprise equaliser gives Royal Blues boost
Just eight minutes after falling behind, Boujellab and his teammates were celebrating an equaliser. Caligiuri curled a free-kick into the box and Breel Embolo’s header was denied by Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp. However, Serdar was on hand to force the ball over the line and score for the second consecutive match after scoring the only goal in Hannover. It also ended a 392 minute goal drought in the VELTINS-Arena and as “Blau und Weiß ein Leben lang” rang round the stadium, the home side grew in confidence.
In the closing phases, it was a tense affair as both sides created chances to score. However, it was Alexander Nübel in the Schalke net who was keeping the scores level with some outstanding saves. “We physically gave everything we had, even after the DFB-Pokal match in mid-week,” said Guido Burgstaller. The strike recognised what was the weakness for the Royal Blues during the match. “We have to be more patient in the opposition penalty box and take our opportunites better.”
Fan encouragement reduces pain of defeat
Despite the high intensity and chances, the match seemed to be heading to a draw. “Actually, the match should’ve ended in a 1-1 draw as that would’ve been a fair result for us against tough opposition,” said Schalke head of sport Jochen Schneider, who had expected the match outcome to turn out differently. However, Schneider was disappointed with the way in which stoppage time played out. “It is difficult to take mentally, we gave everything we had today and played with a lot of courage. Unfortunately, things didn’t go in our favour. I don’t like looking at the table at the moment. We need to win our games. If we play with the passion that we did today going forward, then we will,” added Benjamin Stambouli.
We’re losing and the fans are still applauding us in the stands. I find that unbelievable.
Schalke will be helped in the coming weeks by support off the field. “We have the support of the whole stadium. It’s crazy really. We’re losing and the fans are still applauding us in the stand. I find that unbelievable,” said Stambouli. Burgstaller added: “We’ll get out of this situation together with the fans, who supported us amazingly again!” The attacker also looked ahead to Schalke’s next game against his former club: “We absolutely have to win the upcoming game against 1. FC Nürnberg, apologies to the club. We need the points!”