Huub Stevens’ side left to rue missed chances against the Village Team

 By Colin Stone

You could blame it on their upcoming Champions League fixture with Arsenal being in the back of their minds, or even on the fact that Schalke were not playing in their usual blue kit.

But whatever the reason given, there was no excusing Die Konigsblauen’s poor performance on Sunday.

Their weekend opponents were Hoffenheim, a side who have blown hot and cold more often this season than a dodgy air conditioning.

Having only scored in one game from their previous five, 16th-place Hoffenheim, on paper, looked like pushovers for a side of Schalke’s calibre – and on the day, they should have been just another name to add to the impressive list of recent Royal Blues’ victories.

But this, after all, is the Bundesliga.

Roman Neustader’s late first-half header had cancelled out Kevin Volland’s early strike, but the statistics were beginning to reflect the sheer domination Schalke had enjoyed over the first 45 minutes, with 65% possession belonging to the visitors.

However, despite chances falling to Ibrahim Afellay, Jefferson Farfan and Jermaine Jones after the restart, Huub Stevens’ men were made to pay for their carelessness in the final third as Roberto Firmino tucked away a penalty from a foul on Volland to make it 2-1 to the home side.

Atsuto Uchida scored his first ever league goal for Schalke with 8 minutes remaining to draw the game level after Tim Wiese had blocked Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s initial backheeled effort, but the drama was not to end there.

With just seconds to go before the end of injury time, substitute Sven Schipplock, having only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes, sprung the offside trap to slot past Lars Unnerstall and hand Markus Babbel’s team an unlikely three points.

As seen in previous matches against Fortuna Dusseldorf and also Montpellier in the Champions League, Schalke had once again failed to make their chances and total dominance count and this time were made to pay a heavy price.

The result condemned the title challengers to their first loss in nine games and also left them seven points adrift of league leaders Bayern Munich.

General manager Horst Heldt made his feeling clear after the game, stating that the manner in which his side had lost was “completely and utterly unnecessary”.

Head coach Huub Stevens, the man credited with Schalke’s strong start to this season, was also critical of his side.

“If you don’t take your chances and you allow the opposition back into the game by making mistakes, then you end up losing matches like this.

“We lost because of our inexperience.”

Meanwhile, as the Village Team celebrated on the pitch, fans were thinking of what could have been for their side this season.

Hoffenheim’s team is made up of talented individuals who are seemingly yet to gel as a cohesive unit.

However, if Babbel can get his team working together, they could certainly become a force to be reckoned with once more.

Elsewhere in Germany, Borussia Dortmund’s troubled domestic season continued as they failed to break down a stubborn Stuttgart side at Signal-Iduna Park.

A 0-0 draw was just desserts for Dortmund’s lack of temerity in the creative department, and the result leaves the reigning champions a whopping 11 points off the pace with only 10 games played.

Despite chances falling to Lewandowski, Reus and Hummels, Stuttgart’s backline were resolute and were almost rewarded at the other end for their staunch defending by Vedad Ibisevic, whose shot was firmly held by Roman Weidenfeller.

Questions are beginning to be asked of coach Jurgen Klopp, who could find himself in an even more precarious position should they fail to take anything from their next league game against lowly Augsburg.

Gameweek 10 Results

Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Fortuna Dusseldorf

Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Stuttgart

Borussia M’Gladbach 1-1 Freiburg

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Greuther Furth

Hamburg 0-3 Bayern Munich

Hannover 2-0 Augsburg

Hoffenheim 3-2 Schalke

Nuremberg 1-0 Wolfsburg

Werder Bremen 2-1 Mainz