Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-2 Schalke 04: Fortuna concede first goals of their campaign but come back to snatch a draw

by Aleix Gwilliam

Fortuna Düsseldorf and Fabian Giefer might have lost their unbeaten record but they fought back for a point against a Schalke 04 team that looked certain for a victory at the ESPRITarena. Dani Schahin’s second half double cancelled out first-half goals by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Joël Matip to earn Norbert Meier’s men a draw that will leave die Königsblauen asking themselves how they managed to let two points escape that easily.

Lineups and tactics

Only one change was made by Norbert Meier from last weekend’s 0-2 win at Greuther Fürth, and a surprising one nonetheless, with Ken Ilsø leaving his place for Andrei Voronin, despite scoring a goal against die Kleeblätter. With Voronin in the side playing behind or alongside Schahin, Meier is clearly looking for a more physical presence in the side. With the Ukrainian in the side, the 4-2-3-1 can become a 4-4-2 if needed with wingers Lambertz and Kruse pushing up.

Schalke also changed some players from last week’s 3-0 thrashing of Mainz. Benedikt Höwedes moves into an unusual right-back position in place of Atsuto Uchida, who drops to the bench, and Joel Matip regains his place in central defence after sitting out last week’s match. Jermaine Jones is chosen over Marco Höger after also sitting out last week’s match and Tranquillo Barnetta takes Jefferson Farfán’s place, alternating wings with Ibrahim Afellay. Also fielding a 4-2-3-1, Huub Stevens fields a more physical side attempting to finally overcome the Fortuna defence and holding midfield, combining it with skilful players up front and also using the Swiss’ capacity to put crosses in for Huntelaar rather than using Farfán’s nippiness.

The match

On paper, this was a complete mismatch but both sides headed into this game with the hope of taking the three points. Fortuna were the first side to create any sort of danger, with lone-striker Dani Schahin heading just wide from a Levels cross after just four minutes. However, it didn’t take long for Schalke to make their mark. After 5 matches and roughly 450 minutes, Fabian Giefer was finally beaten, and who else but last year’s Bundesliga Torschutzenkönig, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. This was an atypical Huntelaar goal, as he received the ball outside the area on their right flank, flicked it over his head and controlled it past Langeneke and Malezas, who could have done more, unleashing a powerful left-footed shot low and hard past Giefer to make it 0-1 to the guests.

Schalke took control of the game after the goal and looked comfortable in possession. So comfortable that, seven minutes later, set-piece specialist Christian Fuchs put in a wonderful ball into the area that met the head of Joël Matip, who rose above everyone else and directed it into the net, delighting the 6800 travelling fans who had made the short 35 mile trip. Düsseldorf’s record now seemed a distant memory and with the team not being able to keep the ball or create any danger after the early Schahin chance, the crowd at the ESPRITarena seemed anxious. Fortuna weren’t able to produce much football in the first half and Schalke were happy to keep the ball and pass it around without creating much trouble themselves, bringing an easy first half for die Königsblauen to an end.

The message from Norbert Meier at half time was a clear one, and he changed his team around in order to create more up front. Off came Adam Bodzek for Stefan Reisinger and the 4-2-3-1 changed to a 4-4-2, with Reisinger moving to the right flank, Kruse crossing over to the left and Andy Lambertz providing an attacking central midfield option, with Voronin also moving up front with Schahin. And the move paid dividends almost straight away. Fortuna won a corner that was taken by Lambertz, and Schahin managed to get a back-heel flick on it that lobbed over Unnerstall, who perhaps could have done a bit better, into the net, bringing new-found hope for the home side. This was exactly what the doctor ordered and the game suddenly changed, with Meier’s men now in control of the ball, even more so as Ken Ilsø was brought on for the invisible Voronin, moving back to a 4-2-3-1 with the Dane pulling the strings behind the goalscorer Schahin.

With Van den Bergh pumping up on the left wing, Fortuna were now getting in dangerous positions and causing Schalke some concern, but it was the away side that could have put the game to rest. Huntelaar received a cross from the left side and chested it down inside the 6-yard box, but could only manage to shoot it straight at Giefer having only the goalkeeper to beat. It almost seemed as if the goal would have been too easy for the Dutchman but perhaps his overconfidence rather than Giefer’s positioning was the real reason why the ball didn’t hit the back of the net, a sight that we won’t see often this season. Once again, Düsseldorf’s central defence pairing, especially Langeneke, were poor in the marking and managed a lucky escape this time. And from a possible 1-3 to an almost 2-2, as the next play of the game saw another of Van den Bergh’s surges up the left put a cross in that missed everyone in front of goal, with Unnerstall already beaten at the far post. However, ten minutes later, Fortuna went one better. The lesser-attacking full back, Tobias Levels, whipped in a magnificent cross from the right wing that Dani Schahin majestically managed to turn into the goal, turning his head perfectly to power the ball past Unnerstall, who could not have expected the ball to go in that direction.

Schalke had thrown two points away and Huub Stevens was left in the tricky position of choosing whether to go for the win or save his players for the important midweek Champions League match against Montpellier. He chose the latter and took Huntelaar off for Obasi and Barnetta for Draxler, although the Swiss player had enjoyed a terrible time, not being able to make an impact in the game after being chosen ahead of Farfán, not doing enough in order to claim a first-team place ahead of the Peruvian for the next match. Meier also seemed to settle for the draw as double-goalscorer Dani Schahin came off to a standing ovation by the 48000 Fortuna supporters inside the ESPRITarena to be replaced by Du-ri Cha, who reinforced the defence in order to see out the match and save the point that had seemed so far away just 40 minutes before. With this seemingly non-aggression pact, neither team created any real danger in the closing stages. Schalke will feel it was two points lost rather than one won but one can’t help but feel that their mind was on the Montpellier match rather than at the matter at hand Düsseldorf definitely took advantage of this and were left celebrating at the end, with the jumping and hugging on the touch line a sign of how far that point had seemed just a short while before.

Verdict

A lot was said before the match about Fortuna’s impressive record of not having conceded in the first five matches but little was said about their poor goalscoring tally, having scored only 4 in 5 matches, a number that doesn’t really belong to a 5th-placed team in the Bundesliga, with only 2 goals of those 4 in the last 4 matches. A goalscoring problem is always going to be a serious problem and it will not be compensated by not conceding, since the latter can change so easily and the former might be a longer-lasting problem. However Dani Schahin put in a good performance today by scoring two goals and drawing a match that seemed lost but his loneliness up front cannot be ignored. His striking partner Andrei Voronin did not cause the slightest threat to Schalke and it wasn’t until he was substituted for Ilsø that the home side actually looked like they could cause problems up front.

Giefer once again came up with a handful of good saves and did well in stopping Huntelaar from scoring the third goal for his side, but the central defensive pairing of Malezas and Langeneke seemed weak, and with Schalke being the first real big side that they’ve played this season, you can’t help but think that they will really struggle against the better strikers in the division.

Huub Stevens will be disappointed in his team’s second half performance and will have to think twice before considering rotating his team again before Champions League matches. Tranquillo Barnetta had a very poor game on the left flank and Benedikt Höwedes provided no attacking threat on the right flank, something that Uchida can bring to the team. The midfield pairing of Jones and Neustädter are too similar to one another in their roles and perhaps Matip would be more suited playing there than in defence, despite his solid game today alongside Papadopoulos.  However, this team rely far too much on Huntelaar to score the goals from open play and Lewis Holtby needs to take his chances more instead of always looking for the Dutchman, since he got into good positions today but hesitated at the time of pulling the trigger. However, this Schalke side, whilst not being in the same class as Bayern, have the potential to challenge for a top 2 position with Dortmund but, just like their rivals, cannot afford to throw away 2 goal leads in a match that’s clearly dominated against supposedly smaller opposition. Concentration seems to be a key matter this season and it seems that this will be a deciding factor come May at the top of the table.

Man of the match 

Düsseldorf worked hard in the second half to gain the point and while Van den Bergh was brilliant going up and down the left wing, we can’t look past Dani Schahin for the award. His first goal might have been a bit lucky but there was no such thing involved in the second goal, a proper striker’s goal and one that any excellent header of the ball would be proud of. He worked very hard up front on his own and wasn’t helped by Voronin, something that makes his performance that little bit more impressive. Huntelaar once again was the reference for Schalke up front but his lack of interest in the second half and his clear miss will have frustrated Stevens and, perhaps for one of the few times this season, he wasn’t the best striker on the field.

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Author:Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 25-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football and its history, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam
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