Schalke downed at Nürnberg

After the bitter disappointment of Champions League elimination Schalke dropped important points in the battle for a European spot on Saturday afternoon when they lost 3-0 at Nürnberg. Markus Feulner (31'), Alexander Esswein (69') and Mike Frantz (87') got the goals for the home side.

Jens Keller made three changes to the side that lost against Galatasaray in midweek. Jermaine Jones, back from a one-match ban, Christian Fuchs and Chinedu Obasi came in for Roman Neustädter (shoulder injury), Atsuto Uchida and Teemu Pukki. Marco Höger began at right-back, Fuchs at left-back, and Sead Kolasinac moved across to partner Jones in defensive midfield. Obasi operated as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

The supporters demonstrated the close friendship between the two clubs before the game. Copyright: firo sportphoto

Both teams made a cautious start to the game, opting for a policy of safety first during the early exchanges. They were only partially successful in this endeavour, however, and the action was characterised by a string of long upfield balls and misplaced passes. But with twelve minutes gone the game burst into life when Schalke carved out two huge opportunities. First, Jefferson Farfan knocked the ball narrowly past the right-hand post with only Raphael Schäfer to beat. Then, just seconds later, the Peru international threaded a wonderful pass through to Julian Draxler in the penalty box. The 19-year-old midfielder attempted to lob the ball over Schäfer, but the Nürnberg keeper produced an excellent save.

The same two players combined again on 24 to create the next big chance. This time Draxler dispatched a lovely pass into the path of Farfan, who forced his way down the inside-right channel into the box. Schäfer managed to deflect the Peruvian's shot with his foot and Draxler, following up, could only hit the loose ball against the post. At the other end, Nürnberg proved more efficient and went ahead with their first opportunity in the 31st minute. Pekhart fed Feulner, who shrugged off the challenge of Benedikt Höwedes before sticking the ball past Timo Hildebrand to give the home side a rather flattering lead.

Christian Fuchs returned to his customary left-back position against Nürnberg. Copyright: firo sportphoto

Schalke continued to dominate the possession and had the next chance in the shape of Draxler on 40. Joel Matip whipped a cross into the danger area, but the Germany international was unable to direct the ball towards goal. The Royal Blues almost went further behind on the stroke of half-time when Hildebrand dropped a free-kick that was floated into the box from the left. The Schalke keeper recovered quickly, however, and produced a smart save to deny Pekhart on the rebound.

The pattern remained the same after the interval. Schalke took the game to the home side, who were content to wait for a chance to break. The second half was less than two minutes old when Jones set up Obasi on the right-hand side of the area, only for the Nigerian's shot to roll narrowly wide of the far post.

Jefferson Farfan have several chances to score at Nürnberg. Copyright: firo sportphoto

Two minutes later Nürnberg were saved by the woodwork again. A low ball in by Farfan found Höwedes on the edge of the goal area, and his shot struck the right-hand upright. In the ensuing period the home side showed why their defence is one of the best in the league. Apart from two attempts by Draxler in the 67th minute that were gathered by Schäfer, they allowed Schalke hardly any opportunities – and struck with clinical efficiency on the counter. Not long after Hiroshi Kiyotake had been denied by Hildebrand the Japan midfielder sent Esswein clear and he smashed a crisp drive past Hildebrand from the edge of the box to make it 2-0.

Nürnberg: Schäfer – Balitsch, Nilsson, Klose, Pinola – Simons – Chandler (Ildiz 84'), Kiyotake, Feulner, Esswein (Polter 90') – Pekhart (Frantz 46')
Schalke: Hildebrand – Höger, Höwedes, Matip, Fuchs – Kolasinac (Raffael 59'), Jones – Farfan, Draxler, Bastos (Barnetta 84') - Obasi (Pukki 64')
Goals: 1-0 Feulner (31'), 2-0 Esswein (69'), 3-0 Frantz (87')
Yellow cards: Höger
Attendance: 45,000
Referee: Drees (Münster-Sarmsheim)

The goal knocked the stuffing out of the Royal Blues. Nürnberg administered their lead competently and kept things tight at the back. At the other end they extended their advantage with three minutes left. A neat pass by Kiyotake put Frantz through on Hildebrand. He took the ball round the keeper and slid the ball home comfortably to make it 3-0 and condemn Schalke to a deflating defeat after three league wins in a row.


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