Take the positives and move on
“Disappointed,” “sore,” “speechless,” - Schalke’s players similar opinions after the final whistle of Wednesday’s Champions League Round of 16 first-leg clash against Manchester City. Despite being a goal and a man to the good with minutes to play, the Royal Blues fell to a late defeat at the VELTINS-Arena.
“It is disappointing because we deserved more,” said captain Ralf Fährmann, echoing the thoughts of every Schalke supporter. Thanks to a strong defensive effort and Nabil Bentaleb’s nerves of steel from the penalty spot, the home side lead 2-1 at half-time. When City centre-back Nicholas Otamendi earned an early bath after picking up a second yellow card in the 68th minute, the Miners’ chances of a victory seemed to strengthen yet further. However, the dismissal seemed to work in the visitors’ favour. “The red card perhaps didn’t really benefit us, because we were unsure of which strategy to take for the remainder of the game,” explained Fährmann after full time.
In the Champions League, every mistake is punished.
The Royal Blues certainly saw more possession with the numerical advantage, but the Cityzens continued with their style of play in search of a second goal. The equaliser came with just five minutes of regular time remaining, through a stroke of brilliance from former Schalke man Leroy Sané, who found the back of the net with a free kick 24 metres from goal. “The free kick was due to a foul that we had to make,” said Jeffrey Bruma. Daniel Caligiuri admitted, “In the Champions League, every mistake is punished, especially when you play against a team such as Manchester City.”
A game of fine margins
In the end, one act of carelessness and some individual brilliance from the opposition saw the Sky Blues snatch the victory, but Schalke can take many positives from Wednesday’s game. “We showed that we’re a team who can hold our own against oppositions like Manchester City,” said Weston McKennie and added, “We played well when in possession, created good chances for ourselves and showed good fight.”
Jeffrey Bruma had similar feelings regarding the outcome of the match. “We played well tonight. However, there were little details that led to Manchester City winning the match,” said the central defender. Bastian Oczipka compared last night’s outcome to a recent Bundesliga match which also ended in disappointment for Schalke. “For most of the match, we managed to keep Manchester City a good distance away from our goal. It was just like our performance against FC Bayern when we conceded as a result of a couple of simple errors.”
Hold our heads high and give everything in Manchester
Despite the disappointment of last night, the Royal Blues have turned their attention to the Bundesliga and the upcoming trip to Mainz on Saturday. “We have to move on from last night and concentrate on our next match on Saturday,” said Jeffrey Bruma. Teammate Weston McKennie agreed, adding, “We cannot let our heads drop. We need to look ahead and hopefully secure all three points in Mainz. We can then give everything we have once more in Manchester,” added the American.
Although it will be no easy task, the Royal Blues still have a chance to progress in the second leg in the Etihad Stadium on 12th March. “Of course the current scoreline isn’t that good for us. However, we will give everything we have once more in the second leg,” said Bastian Oczipka. Daniel Caligiuri hopes that he and his teammates can carry the positive feeling of competing against one of the best teams in Europe into Saturday’s match in Mainz and the forthcoming weeks. “We will progress with a 2-0 win in Manchester in a couple of weeks time,” said the full-back with a little grin. The tie isn’t over yet.