Huntelaar nets winner as Schalke continues impressive form
A Klaas-Jan Huntelaar goal in the first half and another strong defensive performance carried Schalke 04 Friday night, a 1-0 victory over Augsburg enough to boost them to seventh place in the Bundesliga table while handing new boss Roberto Di Matteo his third win in four starts since taking charge in Gelsenkirchen.
It was far from a totally successful night, however, as their German international midfield standout, Julian Draxler, appeared to pull a hamstring just 30 seconds into the match. He was unable to put weight on his right leg when he was helped off the field. Draxler’s loss is potentially significant as the Germans heads to Lisbon for a Wednesday night UEFA Champions League tie against Sporting Clube aiming to tighten their grip on a qualifying spot from Group G. They currently sit in second place behind Chelsea.
The night could not have started any worse for Di Matteo as Draxler failed to last the first minute. The German international was hurt as he stretched to avoid a tackle and maintain possession; he was signalling that he would have to come off even before he went to ground.
Without Draxler, Schalke struggled to impose itself in the first half-hour, but when they made their first chance in the 37th minute it was not wasted.
Atsuto Uchida’s surging run down the right wing produced an open finish for Huntelaar, who came completely free at the far post to turn in the cross. The opening was created entirely by Uchida, who picked off a soft pass near the halfway and simply outran the Augsburg defenders in a 50-meter race to the byeline. He then cut back an impeccable cross and Huntelaar’s fourth goal of the season was the reward.
Augsburg rarely troubled Ralf Faehrmann in the Schalke goal, Raul Bobadilla unable to test him from a pair of potentially-dangerous free kicks. The first came after Faehrmann had been good to save from Tobias Werner in the 29th minute, the second early in the second half. In each case, Argentine standout was off-target.
Uchida might have given Schalke a second in the 54th minute but ran out a shooting angle at the near post while Chinedu Obasi, who took over for Draxler in the fourth minute, tested Marwin Hitz in the 67th without success. Although the introduction of Tim Matavz gave Augsburg more options up top, Schalke was not really under pressure in the late-going. The only Bundesliga team not to have drawn a match, Augsburg lost for the sixth time in 10 matches and fell to 12th in the table.
Saturday’s program features Borussia Dortmund’s visit to Bayern Munich in the night kickoff match of the day. Earlier, Bayer Leverkusen goes to Hamburg SV in the other match featuring a Champions League participant. Wolfsburg will be trying to take second place in the table when they visit VfB Stuttgart.