Fabia Geifer celebrated his return to the team for the Knappen tonight. The goalkeeper, who had been suffering with a long-term ankle injury took his place between the sticks at the base of a 4-2-3-1 formation for the Royal Blues. The two new additions to the squad; Younes Belhanda (Dynamo Kiev) and Alessandro Schöpf (1. FC Nuremberg) were both brought on at the start of the second half to make their Schalke debuts.
Schalke dominated a game against an aggressive opposition, had the majority of possession and played the better of the football. Nevertheless, it took the German side 24 minutes to create the first real chance at goal. Leon Goretzka jumped up to head a Johannes Geis cross onto the bar. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting hit the rebound into the stands. Prior to this, the Knappen were already forced into their first substitution: Benedikt Höwedes came off with thigh problems and was replaced by Thilo Kehrer.
In the 29th minute, the Royal Blues took the lead. The goalscorer: Franco Di Santo. The Argentine poked the ball past the keeper after a headed assist from Sane from close range. Goretzka very nearly doubled the lead after 40 minutes, once again with a header from a Geis free kick, which this time glanced just over.
Andre Breitenreiter made a total of nine changes at the break. Only Geis and Sane remained on the pitch. Debutant Belhanda was immediately presented with a huge chance. The Moroccan aimed for the far side of the net attacking from the left and saw his shot fizz wide, but only just. Next, it was Schöpf’s turn to try and score a debut goal. The Austrian hit one hard and low from 12 yards, but saw his effort deflect wide for a corner. Just moments before, Fort Lauderdale Strikers had their first opportunity: A tremendous effort from distance, which, fortunately, was not on target.
Schalke 1st Half: Giefer - Riether, Höwedes (22' Kehrer), Neustädter, Kolasinac - Geis, Goretzka - Sane, Meyer, Choupo-Moting - Di Santo
Schalke 2nd Half: Gspurning - Caicara, Matip, Friedrich, Aogo - Hojbjerg, Geis (82' Sivodedov) - Sane (58' Sam), Belhanda, Schöpf - Huntelaar
Fort Lauderdale: Bruno - Gabriel (89' Pineda), Agbossoumonde, James, Saco Vertiz (74' Zapata) - Kleberson (58' Adrianinho), Paulo Cesar (82' Gonzalez), Hlavaty - Mura, Santos (71' Angulo), PC
Goals: 1-0 Di Santo (29'), 2-0 Sane (57')
Referee: Fitzgerald (Florida)
Sane doubles Schalke’s lead in the 57th minute. The forward guided the ball over the line from just a few yards out after being played in fantastically from the left by Schöpf. The opponents were not finished, and came very close to scoring from a long free kick from Adrianho which James headed low into the corner: Gspurning somehow managed to tip the ball wide of the post.
In the closing stages, S04 continued to create good opportunities. But there was to be no third goal for the Royal Blues this time. The ball did find its way into the net again via Klaas-Jan Huntelaar but he was flagged for offside.
"It was a successful start to the new year. We won, kept a clean sheet and were clearly the better team. In addition, we brought our new signings Younes Belhanda and Alessandro Schöpf into the game well," said Breitenreiter. "We played some really attractive football and created lots of great chances to score. In the second half there were quite a few interruptions, partly down to the opposition making a lot of substitutions. The pace of the game suffered somewhat as a result."
The second Florida Cup game for the Royal Blues takes place on Wednesday, the 13th January (18:30 ET) against Atletico Mineiro. The clash with the Brazilian giants will be played in the Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.