Photos: Michael Ballack is hardly missed by Bayer Leverkusen [PlessPix]
Schalke 04 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Schalke 04, one of the most famous clubs in Germany, are having a terrible season and coach Felix Magath must be under intense pressure. After all, Schalke finished second last season to Bayern Munich but are currently in second-last place.
This 1-0 win away by Bayer Leverkusen before 61,673 at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen put the visitors into third place.
Schalke have now failed to win at home in five matches this season and have won only once against Leverkusen in their past 12 meetings.
The home side were solid in the opening half and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar almost put them ahead in the 22nd minute when he got onto the end of Jefferson Agustin Farfan’s right-wing cross, but his header came back off the crossbar.
Leverkusen should have taken the lead a minute later when Daniel Schwaab crossed into the box from the right, but Patrick Helmes missed the ball, which carried through to Vidal, who headed wide despite being unmarked.
In the 27th minute, Schalke’s signing from Kashima Antlers in Japan, Atsuto Uchida, tested keeper Rene Adler with a fierce strike from wide on the right, but Adler managed to get down and keep it out at his near post.
Huntelaar hit the post in the 47th minute to again let the visitors off the hook.
Leverkusen’s winner came in the 65th minute through substitute Sidney Sam. He was put through the middle by a precise pass from Lars Bender. Sam outpaced Christoph Metzelder, signed after a disappointing spell at Real Madrid, and fired past Manuel Neuer from 15 metres.
Farfan tested Adler in the 73rd minute with a powerful close-range shot from an acute angle on the right, but the Leverkusen custodian showed sharp reflexes to turn the ball over the bar.
Schalke have now earned a mere 2 points from a possible 15 at home this season.
Their striker, Raul, signed from Real Madrid in the summer, was scarcely seen and Magath will need to devise a better system to utilise the talents of Madrid’s greatest-ever scorer.
As for Leverkusen, they have a superb away record this season and hardly missed injured German international Michael Ballack, signed from Chelsea.
Schalke 04: Neuer - Uchida, Schmitz [(Matip 46) Gavranovic 86], Metzelder, Howeder - Farfan, Klug (Edu 72), Rakitic, Jurado - Huntelaar, Raul [Substitutes not used: Schober, Papadopoulos, Deac, Moritz]
Booked: Metzelder 77
Bayer Leverkusen: Adler - Kadlec, Reinartz, Friedrich, Schwaab - Balitsch, Bender, Vidal, Barnetta (Sam 46) - Derdujok, Helmes (Rolfes 64) [Substitutes not used: Fernandez, Kaplan, Jorgensen]
Goals: Sam 65
Ref: Dr F Brych