Schalke’s loss to Leverkusen and Bayern’s draw with Nuremberg opens up the league

By Colin Stone

Is there a more frustrated group of football supporters in Europe than Schalke’s right now?

One week, Huub Stevens’ side are playing the best football in the country; the next, they’re infuriatingly awful.

One Saturday, they’ll outplay and beat the former champions; a fortnight later, they’ll lose to a mediocre team of also-rans despite dominating much of the game.

And that’s exactly what happened this weekend.

Schalke, who have blown hot and cold more often than a dodgy microwave lately, went into Saturday’s game away to Bayer Leverkusen knowing a win would crank up the pressure on leaders Bayern.

Leverkusen, who have simply “been Leverkusen” for much of this season – beating big sides and underperforming against the minnows – had been on the receiving end of a 3-1 hammering by Wolfsburg the previous week and were looking ripe for the picking.

But instead, the Royal Blues turned in yet another poor performance, littered with mistakes, errors and chances spurned to allow Leverkusen to record a morale-boosting 2-0 win.

It seemed that both teams were lacking a cutting edge up front in the opening 45, but Andre Schürrle eventually opened the scoring with a blistering strike from 20 yards out just before the interval.

Despite the away side enjoying most of the ball, it was Schürrle and Castro who both missed glorious chances early in the second period to add to Leverkusen’s lead.

The home team began to grow in confidence with the influential Schürrle pulling the strings, and it wouldn’t be long until Stefan Kiessling made Stevens’ side pay for their poor performance by slotting the ball past Lars Unnerstall in the Schalke goal.

Kiessling could’ve further extended the home side’s lead in the 80th minute had he not missed a penalty, but Sami Hyppia’s outfit had more than enough in the tank to take all three points.

The result saw Die Werkself leap to fifth in the table, only two points behind their Saturday opposition.

“Explanations are required, but I would rather keep that internal for the time being,” Huub Stevens said after the game.

“I could have taken nine men off, and I did take some of them off. And then the only one who actually performed well got a second yellow card (Kyriakos Papadopoulos), which is a shame.

“We were begging to lose this game.”

Schalke director of sport Horst Heldt also pointed the finger at the players once again after the side’s abject display.

“It was a total failure,” he said in Bild. “We absolutely deserved to lose. I cannot remember when we last played so badly.”

But the misery of Schalke’s management and fans was compounded as they realised that a win would have brought them even closer to the top of the table after league leaders Bayern Munich had stumbled away to Nuremberg earlier in the day.

Although red-hot Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring after less than 3 minutes, Markus Feulner’s equaliser after the restart proved to be the final goal of the game, meaning that Bayern’s lead at the top of the Bundesliga increased to eight points.

A Schalke win would’ve seen Jupp Heynckes’ team’s advantage cut down to just five.

The Bavarians enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and dominated the game in its entirety, but their opposition put in a steely defensive performance and held firm despite Timo Gebhart’s sending off in the 77th minute.

Gameweek 12 Results

Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Schalke

Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Greuther Furth

Borussia M’Gladbach 1-2 Stuttgart

Eintracht Frankfurt 4-2 Augsburg

Hamburg 1-0 Mainz

Hannover 1-2 Freiburg

Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

Nuremberg 1-1 Bayern Munich

Werder Bremen 2-1 Fortuna Dusseldorf