Let’s face it, defeat in this case was as inevitable as it could possibly be in this world of uncertainties.
Schalke are facing the best team in Europe, who have now mounted ten Champions League victories in a row. The best player in the world, a.k.a. Cristiano Ronaldo, despite riding a mini-slump, could not be stopped from scoring the first goal and setting up the second.
Still, if among Schalke’s goals was for them to come out of this match-up looking respectable, then their effort Wednesday did take them in that direction. It is not only a matter of improving upon last year’s abysmal 9-2 aggregate dismissal from Champions League at the feet of Real, which was already an embarrassing 6-1 after the opening leg, it is a matter of Schalke not looking absurd when playing the elite teams of Europe.
There were encouraging signs.
DiMatteo’s 3-5-2 strategy still produced solid, if at times uneven, defence.
Two nineteen-year-olds, Timon Wellenreuther and Felix Platte, turned in impressive matches.
Especially during the first twenty-twenty-five minutes, Schalke showed energy and played effective, counterattacking football against the European champions.
At the end, however, discouragement is difficult to completely avoid.
Huntelaar went down in the thirty-third minute with a bruised fibula, though he may still be back for the coming derby against Dortmund.
Kevin-Prince Boateng will miss the second leg against Real after picking up a second yellow card.
Not only is the club down two goals heading to Madrid, but also finds it cannot score, posting three goals in five games this year.
Another area of concern is the midfield. There is a definite lack of attack in the final third of the field. At the other end, some did not do their job in shielding the back three. Neustader, in particular, had a disappointing game in this respect.
Injuries still are hurting the club, as the absences of Farfan, Draxler, Goretzka, and Kolasinac become increasingly bigger factors in Schalke’s struggles.
- Benedikt Hoewedes – leading by example again at the back with several key clearances.
- Timon Wellenreuther – a third-string goalie who continues to play as a starter. He made several key saves in keeping the scoreline low.
- Felix Platte – his brief yet colourful appearance was highlighted by his near-wonder strike at Madrid’s crossbar. This nineteen year-old is raising eyebrows.
Schalke 0 – 2 Real Madrid (Ronaldo ’25, Marcelo ’78)
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