Trainer Thomas Reis cried out his joy as he jumped, goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann thanked his teammates with relief and the whole team celebrated the biggest party since promotion last season in front of the enthusiastic fans: Schalke 04 is back! The “Royal Blues” have reported back in the relegation battle with their first Bundesliga win in three and a half months.
On Saturday evening, the bottom of the table won the important duel with direct competitor VfB Stuttgart 2-1 (2-0) and, still undefeated, draws new hope in the second half of the season.
“Of course this victory gives us a boost because there was finally a hefty reward for our effort,” said Fährmann, who had endangered victory with a mistake, on Sky: “We left our hearts on the pitch and man saw how the fans appreciated that.”
Since the 1: 6 home debacle against RB Leipzig “we deliver on the pitch and show what the fans expect from us,” said goalscorer Marius Bülter: “It’s good to score goals again.” And coach Reis emphasized: ” The team is alive.”
Goal drought ended
Schalke now have a great opportunity to catch up at Reis’ former club VfL Bochum next weekend and leave the bottom spot in the table where the Ruhr-area club has been without a break since the eleventh matchday. “It’s a derby, it’s always explosive,” said Fährmann.
After four previous goalless draws, Dominick Drexler (10th minute) ended the 414-minute goal drought in front of 62,271 spectators in the sold-out Schalke Arena. Marius Bülter (40th) increased artistically to 2:0. The Royal Blues last won against Mainz (1-0) on November 9th. In the 100th Bundesliga duel between the two traditional clubs, the goal by Borna Sosa (63rd) was not enough for VfB after a serious goalkeeper error by Schalke’s Ralf Fährmann.
With 16 points now, Schalke is only three points behind Bochum, Stuttgart and the first non-relegation zone. Despite a significant improvement in performance after the break, the defeat was another bitter setback for VfB after last weekend’s 3-0 win against 1. FC Köln – the first win ever under new coach Bruno Labbadia. With 19 points, the Swabians are just above the relegation zone in 15th place.
On Saturday evening, the VfB pros made too many individual mistakes, especially in defense and in the first half. The guests only started offensively after the 0:1, but initially only played pleasantly and hardly purposefully. At the latest, the ferryman destroyed the few consistent attacks. The 34-year-old only had to concede his first goal after a good hour since returning to the Schalke goal after the first half. The experienced professional slipped Sosa’s long-range shot through his hands and into the net.
In the second half, the actually much more stable basic order of Schalke came into serious danger. This was also due to the reshuffle in the outer positions due to the absence of Jere Uronen and Cedric Brunner. Reis was right at first with the makeshift solutions of Henning Matriciani and Mehmet Aydin, but they too had problems in the second half.
After a period of pressure from VfB, Schalke increased the pressure again after about 30 minutes and missed an even higher lead at the break. Michael Frey (31st) and Rodrigo Zalazar (36th) missed promising opportunities, only Bülter with his cabinet piece with a hoe into the far corner calmed down a bit.
Labbadia reacted to the rather emotionless performance of his team at the break with two changes. Tanguy Coulibaly and Dan-Axel Zagadou replaced the disappointing Gil Dias and Hiroki Ito. The result was significantly more pressure from his team and, above all, more passion. The connecting goal was deserved despite the lucky outcome. In the end, VfB threw everything forward. But Schalke brought the victory over time.