With Bayern Munich dropping points earlier in the day in the Bavarian derby to Nurnberg in a 1-1 draw, Huub Steven’s Schalke club had a great opportunity to move up on the runaway Bundesliga leaders in Leverkusen Saturday. Instead, it was the home side who took all three points, remaining unbeaten at home this season as Bayer Leverkusen dropped Schalke with a 2-0 victory. The result sees Leverkusen in fifth place with a 6-3-3 mark, but only two points behind the 2nd place Royal Blues, who now trail Bayern by eight points.
Tactics and Formations
Both teams came into the match in good form. Although Leverkusen lost last week in Wolfsburg, it was the first time they’d lost since September 15 in Dortmund, getting results in every match since in all competitions. Similarly, Schalke had lost only once since a September 22 trip to the Allianz where they were beaten by Bayern Munich 2-0.
The home side lined up in a defensive formation, lining up Stefan Reisinger in front of the back four with Simon Rolfes and Lars Bender providing another line of protection. Andre Schürrle and Gonzalo Castro were wingers with Stefan Kießling leading the line. Bernd Leno was back in goal after missing several matches while Sidney Sam was unavailable for Saturday’s match.
Huub Stevens was without Ibrahim Afellay, who suffered a knock in the midweek Netherlands-Germany friendly. He was replaced by Julian Draxler, but otherwise Stevens started the same XI that defeated Werder Bremen last week. Jermaine Jones and Roman Neustadter were in their usual holding midfielder roles, while Draxler played on the left wing opposite Jefferson Farfan, with Lewis Holtby playing behind Jan-Klaas Huntelaar.
Befitting a home side in good form, Leverkusen came out gunning, with Schürrle heading over the crossbar in very early action from a Schürrle cross . It certainly looked like there would be goals aplenty, with the two clubs having combined for 41 league goals between them thus far in 2012/2013. But while both teams attacked with energy, both lacked effectiveness in the final third. A chance by Schürrle was taken weakly, while Leno was able to deny Draxler. With the half winding down to what looked like a scoreless draw, though, Schürrle put Leverkusen on top with a blistering shot that eluded Schalke keeper Lars Unnerstall. Assisted by Rolfes on a break, the goal was the German international’s third in league play this season.
The second half provided much of the same, with constant change of possession and both teams willing to attack, but unable to break through. Prior to the hour mark, Schürrle and Castro missed chances while Schalke’s Jones had his attempt saved by Leno. Stevens brought in former Leverkusen man Tranquillo Barnetta for Holtby at the hour mark, but it was Leverkusen who scored the game’s second goal. At the 67 minute mark, Kießling scored his eighth goal of the season provided by Castro. Schalke could get little going in the last 20 plus minutes, even with Kießlingmissing on a penalty opportunity in the 80th minute. A wasted day by the Royal Blues was emphasized even further when defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos picked up a second yellow card ans was ejected from the game two minutes after Unnerstall’s save of Kießling’s penalty, negating any momentum Schalke had gained from the save to earn a late result. Schalke’s road record fell to 2-2-2 in league play, with 10 goals scored and 10 allowed.
While Schalke held 60% possession overall in the match, attempting more than twice as many passes as the home side, Leverkusen led in shots 19-8 while having a decided edge in tackles won (57.5%), outrunning the visitors by over 5 km.and commiting only half as many fouls. The ever-determined Kießling led both sides with five shots taken, while drawing three fouls and leading his team with 24 tackles won, He also has scored more Bundesliga goals than anyone in the 2012 calendar year, making one wonder what the 28 year-old has to do to earn another callup to the national side.
Leverkusen are undefeated at home this season under the co-leadership of Sami Hyypiä and Sascha Lewandowski, having now fashioned a 4-2-0 record at the BayArena while allowing only five goals in six home contests and scoring twelve. Die Werkself held Huntelaar, the league’s leading scorer last season, to only 22 touches Saturday. The Dutch superstar has averaged 30-plus touches per match this season, but with only 22 this week and 13 the week before, Schalke have shown a rather alarming inability lately to provide him with the ball the last two weeks. While so much good is going on with the Royal Blues, it is a concern that Huntelaar has only scored three Bundesliga goals thus far in 2012/2013. Schalke will face another stern test next weekend when they play host to Eintracht Frankfurt, while Leverkusen will play away to Hoffenheim on MatchDay 13.
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