Tactics and Personnel
Markus Weinzierl made four changes from the team that were beaten 2-0 by Ajax in the Europa League quarter final first leg. Matija Nastasic was out due to suspension, and Benedikt Höwedes missed out with a calf problem. Nabil Bentaleb and Alessandro Schöpf dropped down to the bench. In their places came Holger Badstuber, Coke, Johannes Geis and Donis Avdijaj, with the team sitting in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was not in the matchday squad due to a gastrointestinal illness. Sead Kolasinac remained sidelined due to adductor issues.
S04 fail to take their chances
Both teams were disjointed and uneasy in build-up play in the early stages at the Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion am Böllenfalltor, which led directly to the opening goal. After some frantic bouncing around in the middle third, Marcel Heller was released down the right wing, and found Mario Vrancic with a low cross through the box. Completely free with most of the goal to aim at, he made no mistake to put Darmstadt ahead afer eleven minutes. Schalke had the run of the chances after going behind, but did not take advantage when they had control. Michael Esser made some important saves, but S04 went into the dressing room at half time rueing their poor finishing as the reason for their trailing.
Coke scores, Kehrer dismissed, Darmstadt celebrate
Schalke upped the intensity from the start of the second half, and again found themselves creating a great deal but struggling to convert. The best chance fell to Guido Burgstaller from the penalty spot after a foul on Daniel Caligiuri. The Austrian hit his effort straight down the middle and despite the fact that the goalkeeper dived to his right, he managed to kick it clear with his feet and keep the scores level. S04 eventually got on the scoresheet through Coke, who headed home from Dennis Aogo's chipped cross into the box with 15 minutes remaining. A few moments later, though, Thilo Kehrer received a yellow card for a last man challenge, which upped the difficulty of the Royal Blues' task. Their profligacy was punished further in the final minute of added time, when Gondorf slammed the ball home after it bounced into his path from a free kick to seal Darmstadt's win.
Conclusions and Outlook
S04 had the chances to win the game, but did not take them and were ultimately made to suffer for the fact that Darmstadt did so themselves, despite having far fewer. SVD refused to give in and got their reward in the final moments.
Schalke have a big task ahead of them next, as they prepare for the Europa League quarter final second leg against Ajax Amsterdam. The match will begin at 21:05 CEST. The next Bundesliga match will be at home against RB Leipzig, kicking off at 17:30 CEST on Sunday 23rd April.