Köln spoil Schalke’s run of form, Leverkusen struggle for draw
Köln spoiled the party in Gelsenkirchen Sunday afternoon, their 3-0 Bundesliga victory preventing Schalke from collecting a team-record seventh straight win and cementing their own position as an early-season surprise.
Anthony Modeste, Yannick Gerhardt and Simon Zoller scored the goals that enabled Peter Stoger’s team to climb into fifth place as they continued their impressive start to the season. Schalke remained third on a day when they would have expected better.
Schalke came into the match unbeaten in its last six starts in all competitions but perhaps suffered that familiar "Europa League hangover" as they struggled to find the fluency which had characterized their attack this season.
Credit to Köln, of course. They had done the double a year ago, one of only two sides to win in Gelsenkirchen, and approached Sunday’s test with a defensive framework that was tight and well-constructed. Center back Dominique Heintz marshaled his forces perfectly while goalkeeper Timo Horn made the saves when he had to. Much of the time Schalke was left frustrated, searching for openings that didn’t appear regularly.
Modeste’s ultimately decisive strike came in the final minute of the first half, Leonardo Bittencourt spotting the French striker with room to operate on the right and delivering a perfect 40-yard pass from his own half of the field. Having previously been denied by Ralf Fahrmann’s kick save in the 26th minute and wasted another decent look from the top of the box, Modeste made no mistake this time. His drive went between the keeper’s legs to put the visitors on top.
Schalke certainly should have done better with their first half possession and chances, but Klaas-Jan Huntelaar saw a good header chance slide by the wrong side of the right post in the 29th minute and Cologne keeper Horn produced something special in the 40th minute when he parried Leroy Sane’s half-volley at the near post.
Schalke could not raise their pace and found the Koln defense extremely resolute. When Gerhardt, a standout for the visitors, collected at the top of the box and drifted a bit to his left, his shot beat Fahrmann conclusively to settle the issue in the 80th minute.
It then got worse for Schalke with seven minutes left when Zoller ran onto a perfect pass from another substitute, Kevin Vogt, to slide the ball home with his first touch of the afternoon.
Karim Bellarabi canceled out a Bernd Leno howler own goal but Bayer Leverkusen could do no better than a 1-1 draw against 16th-placed Augsburg in their Sunday evening Bundesliga contest. The result meant that Leverkusen failed to leap up the table, remaining seventh after sharing the points. Augsburg did get above Hannover 96 but remains in the bottom three with just five points from eight matches.
Leno’s unfortunate, costly mistake came in the 12th minute when he swung and missed at a simple backpass from Jonathan Tah and then had to pick the ball out of his own net. There was no pressure, either on Tah or Leno, but the backpass did appear to take a slight bobble just as the keeper attempted to kick it clear. Instead, he misshit his attempt and the ball spun crazily behind him.
It took most of the half for Leverkusen to wipe out the deficit. The equalizer came thanks to a hard shot from Chicharito, the Mexican striker hitting the right post from 20 yards. The ball rebounded directly to Bellarabi who had a simple open net finish in the 39th minute.
Leverkusen wasted a glorious chance to win take all three points when Hakan Calhanoglu skied a 70th minute penalty kick over Marwin Hitz’ bar. Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker handled a cross to concede the award, but the dead-ball specialist Calhangolu appeared to slip just slightly as he hit the spot kick.
A brilliant stoppage time save from Hitz preserved the point for the visitors.
Of concern to both Leverkusen and Germany will be the fact that Bellarabi appeared to injure his left shoulder after taking a hard fall late in the game. He came directly off looking shaken just days before Euro 2016 qualifying is set to resume.