After 31 shots, it was a miracle that, somehow, the Round-of-32 draw between Schalke 04 and Shakhtar Donetsk ended in a goalless stalemate. Although the home side will surely be the happier of the two, Schalke will have the home advantage next time around, and will be sure to finish off what they couldn’t in Ukraine.
As usual, the match had its fair shares of winners and losers. The closer you get to goal, the more winners you’ll find in this article. Here are the winners and losers from last night’s 0-0 draw.
Winner: Ralf Fahrmann
Schalke’s shot stopper pulled up big in many vital moments throughout the 90 minutes, taking control of his goal box and making four big saves for the German side. Particularly the best save of the night was a low drive that looked like it was going in, before the big sweeper got lower and stuck a hand out to deny Shakhtar their first goal, following it up with another solid save from a similar shot on the opposite side of the box.
It’s still an absolute mystery on how Fahrmann hasn’t been called up to the national team.
Loser: Olexandr Kucher
In the 86th minute, Kucher saw his second yellow after bundling over Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, and was thus sent off.
Kucher was part of the reason why Schalke hadn’t been able to get through the night, but the reckless nature of two of his tackles within just seven minutes means Shakhtar can’t rely on his services for next week’s away trip to Gelsenkirchen.
His night wasn’t entirely memorable up to that moment; it was his full backs that stole the show. But he couldn’t maintained a little more discipline for just eight more minutes.
Winner: Shakhtar’s fullbacks
Both Ismaily and Darijo Srna, the caption of Shakhtar and the Croatian national team, had an outstanding night in front of their home crowd.
Early on in the 11th minute, Srna delivered a goalline clearance from a clever effort from Younes Belhanda. The Moroccan international dribbled around a handful of defenders before unleashing a shot from 14 yards out. Past Andriy Pyatov, it was Srna who kept his side in the game early on.
He also maintained a very stern and untestable figure, essentially preventing Sead Kolasinac any chance at crossing the ball, forcing him down the middle, which then opened the flanks up for a very swift Shakhtar counterattack.
Ismaily, who delivered what was to be the performance of the night, was everywhere. The moment Junior Caicara worked into the home side’s half, he was up against him. The full back won three aerials, had one shot on target and made six tackles (Wow!) He also had the most unenviable position of the night, having to man mark Leroy Sane, which he did brilliantly, making the young German international controlled throughout his time on the pitch.
Loser: Schalke’s Shot Conversion
What is starting to become a reoccurring issue with this young German side is the players’ inability to put chances away. Tonight, that was a glaring issue for Europe to see.
You couldn’t tell you were watching a side that had scored the second highest amount of goals in the group stage. Instead, Schalke in Ukraine was the Schalke in Germany; poor chance conversion.
The argument to make is that Schalke are creating chances, and that’s something any coach can build off of and be happy. True, but when your players are unable to shoot on target and away from the keeper, then the scoreline is the only thing that matters. At the end of the day, by this standard, Schalke weren’t bad at all, but just disappointing.
Dynamo Kyic-loanee Belhanda had two golden opportunities to put the game away. His first shot was described earlier, and his second shot was actually perfect, bar a sensational save from Pyatov.
Roman Neustadter put power on a header from a corner, but directly at Pyatov. Leon Goretzka put what was essentially a very hard pass directly at the keeper as well. And Leroy Sane had two golden opportunities to head the ball in, but he missed the first entirely and the second spiraled just millimeters off the post. It was a frustrating night for Sane, because he knows that he should’ve done better there.
Winner: Andre Breitenreiter
I was tempted to put “Loser: Neutrals” considering how exciting some of the other matches in the Round of 32 were, but I opted instead for Schalke’s manager, who will still see that his side are steadily improving.
In spite of the 0-0 draw, Schalke now go home with the knowledge that they must win next week’s second leg. Breitenreiter has his work cut out for him. This is the kind of pressure he needs to push a Schalke side to a deep run through the Europa League.
The group stage was arguably the easiest it could’ve been for a team. Now, they immediately faced a champions league drop-out and managed a 0-0 draw in their own backyard. Looking at it this way, the impression changes to a positive one.
Breitenreiter has a deep squad now, with relatively no injuries. He’s blessed with one of the most promising midfields in world football. He himself is a young manager, and is growing with the squad. He has to encourage his squad, as they have back-to-back home performances against a resurging VfB Stuttgart and welcome back Shakhtar.
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