HSV would have probably settled for a draw before the match but if you ask Fink & co. right now, they probably feel disappointed to be leaving Gelsenkirchen without all three points. HSV put in a performance that may have surprised a few, especially those who expected them to succumb to Schalke’s theoretical superiority on most areas of the pitch. However, it was a game where bad luck or mistakes played a part in all six goals.
A bad day between the posts
Many have pointed out that Schalke’s main weakness is between the goalposts and after today’s performance by Timo Hildebrand, they may have a strong case. Hildebrand looked unsure coming out for crosses all game long and he rode his luck until Lasse Sobiech’s goal on 49′, where he hesitated on whether to come out or not, stood in no man’s land and the tall centre back put a header in which the former Stuttgart and Hoffenheim goalkeeper watched sail into the net. In HSV’s second goal, where Maximilian Beister’s header came off the crossbar, rebounded on the diving Hildebrand and went in, the Hildebrand’s position left a lot to be desired as the actual header, whilst powerful, was not from close range and the goalkeeper’s reactions and positioning were not worthy of the goalkeeper of one of Germany’s top 4 teams.
It didn’t go much better for René Adler either. Whilst he still made a couple of good saves that denied Schalke, he should take responsibility for two out of the three goals. When Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was put through after just two minutes, he drilled his shot low from 25-30 yards and it went in tucked into Adler’s right-hand post. Looking at replays, Adler’s positioning was not great, with the goal behind him looking large for the Dutchman to pick his spot. Whilst indeed a counterattack, an experienced goalkeeper like Adler should know best and cover the spaces better.
Of course that any doubters that he was responsible for the first goal will have little to say about his fault in the third. An apparently easy shot to clutch to his chest by Schalke debutant Christian Clemens was spilled and Ádám Szalai was quickest to it and equalised in true poaching style. All in all, it was an off day for René Adler and he is a valuable asset to his club, as he will undoubtedly win many points for them this season. On the other hand, it’s not the first time and probably not the last that we see Hildebrand perform in such ways and Jens Keller has 3 weeks on whether to make a decision that could potentially be crucial to their final league position.
Concentration and communication
HSV put in a solid and professional performance that was only tainted by the opening two minutes and closing minute of the first half. With Schalke getting their goals in the 2′ and in the 45+1′, it almost seemed too easy. With Lasse Sobiech being the new man in defence, communication between him, Westermann and Adler might still be developing but both of Huntelaar’s goals were lacks in concentration by mostly Sobiech but also the whole team. The ease with which Schalke passed around to put Huntelaar through for the first goal was astonishing, they might as well have been training with cones, as HSV were seemingly still in the dressing room. For the second goal, Huntelaar jumped unmarked inside the box to head Schalke level at a crucial psychological time. Whilst the marker could still be the one to blame, the goalkeeper or someone as experienced as Westermann who marshals the defence should realise that the opposition’s most dangerous player is alone in the box. Whilst not a problem for HSV last year, it was definitely their achilles heel today, with Schalke also creating other similar chances that almost ended in goal.
A game of luck
There was no doubt that luck had a big influence in today’s match. Joël Matip’s hand-ball in the first half that lead to HSV’s penalty, transformed by Rafael van der Vaart, was fortuitous and unlucky for the Cameroonian international. Another piece of bad luck was the aforementioned own goal by Hildebrand as the ball bounced off the crossbar and hit him on the arm to go in. Milan Badelj also had a stroke of bad luck as his looping header hit the crossbar, which would have made it 3-1 to his side, as shortly afterwards Huntelaar headed level. Details that did and could have turned the game on its head. Also, the fact that Julian Draxler had to come off for Schalke with a knock after just 23 minutes was bad luck for Schalke, as Draxler’s undoubted talent would have also have had an impact on the game. Swings and roundabouts.
It was a match of many debuts and a lot of eyes set on some players. Jens Keller started with Christian Clemens after his arrival from 1. FC Köln in the summer. Clemens started on the left wing and played the whole match, getting involved in many of his team’s attacking moves and, in the end, influencing the result, as it was his shot that Adler spilled which led to the 3.3. Clemens also took responsibilities and some free-kicks ahead of other more experienced players like Fuchs and Farfán, who one may think were high up in the dressing room hierarchy, so it was quite clear that Keller will have him as a big part of his plans, as his performance today was very solid and he’ll no doubt be happy with it.
The other debutant for Schalke today was Leon Goretzka, the protagonist of the summer transfer saga between Schalke and VfL Bochum. Goretzka came on for the injured Draxler and slotted into a 3-man midfield. Whilst nothing spectacular, the youngster did not put a foot wrong and it says a lot that Keller chose him ahead of other more experienced players like Marco Höger or Tranquillo Barnetta. Coming on so suddenly and on such a big stage can’t have been easy for Goretzka but he rode the situation with apparent ease.
It might have surprised a few to see starlet Hakan Çalhanoğlu in the starting lineup but anyone who has seen him play won’t have batted an eyelid. Çalhanoğlu had a quiet game and his position seemed to get mixed with van der Vaart’s a lot, with the young Turkish midfielder seemingly not knowing exactly what his role was. Of course, the Dutchman and him are used to playing in the same position but both found themselves drifting into the middle of the pitch a lot and too close to each other, ending up as either deep lone strikers or central attacking midfielders. Either way, they are two players for one same position and that cancelled both out. It’s something Fink will have to figure out but Çalhanoğlu has the potential to become a great player for HSV but must be brought up properly.
For HSV, the other Bundesliga debutant was Jacques Zoua, who arrived this summer from FC Basel. Zoua played most of the match on the left channel and whilst he didn’t seem to struggle for pace or to adapt to the Bundesliga style of play as he received plenty of balls; what he did show was a lack of end product that might worry Thorsten Fink and most HSV fans. Of course one game is nothing to go by but despite Zoua’s energy and quick feet, a lot was left to be desired in the end, as the Cameroonian had no impact on the game at all. Wide shots and lost balls made for an unimpressive debut. However, he will no doubt get more chances but he will definitely have to improve a lot if he is to claim a regular place in the starting XI. Today was a game where he could have shone, as Atsuto Uchida’s constant runs up the wing left him a lot of space to create and move around but, alas, he didn’t take his golden chance.
Despite conceding the late equaliser, HSV, with a cold head, will be the happier of the two sides as they came out of one of the trickier away days of the season with a point and a more-than-decent collective performance to go with it. Psychologically, it will help HSV a lot after their recent poor pre-season results and they will be heading into next week’s home affair with Hoffenheim confident of a win.
Schalke will take Huntelaar’s strikes as a positive from today’s performance, as the Dutchman seems back to his best and hungry for goals, with his first goal an absolute peach of a strike. Despite Draxler’s injury, the performances by Clemens and Goretzka are encouraging and Schalke definitely won the midfield battle against Arslan and Badelj and Benedikt Höwedes was immense at the back. Two out of three of HSV’s goals were a product of bad luck so the result could have been completely different had Lady Luck smiled the other way.
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