Schalke have won their first Bundesliga match in eight attempts, and in the most dramatic manner imaginable. The Royal Blues won 5-4 against visitors Hannover, even after 40 goalless, rather dull opening minutes.
Schalke won a nine-goal rollercoaster against Hannover to fire the Bundesliga back into action after its winter break on Friday. Eight goals flew in during the second half, with both defenses seemingly still on their Christmas holidays, and five of them fell in just 19 minutes of play.
Schalke's departing playmaker Lewis Holtby scored two assists and picked up Schalke's fifth and final goal for himself in what might prove his last appearance for the club. Hannover's strongest player, meanwhile, was Szabolcs Huszti, who netted twice and created a string of chances his teammates subsequently spurned.
The pick of the goals came right at the end, when Mame Biriam Diouf blasted in a bicycle kick to reduce Schalke's lead to one goal at 5-4.
Seconds later, referee Deniz Aytekin blew the final whistle on a dramatic restart to the German top flight.
A scrappy start
The opening phase of the match between a pair of off-color teams was characterized more by stinging tackles than flowing football. Sergio da Silva Pinto and new loan signing Johann Djourou were booked for the visitors, while Schalke's Holtby and Ciprian Marica picked up cautions too.
When the opening goal fell in the 44th minute, it was similarly scrappy. A giant Christian Fuchs throw-in somehow found its way across the Hannover box to a wide open Jefferson Farfan. His first-time volley was exquisite, but the non-existent marking was a sign of things to come in the second half.
Goal glut after the break
Schalke, who spent the majority of the game in the ascendancy, doubled their money soon after the restart. On the break, Lewis Holtby reminded Schalke fans of what they will miss when he heads to Tottenham. Holtby spotted Julian Draxler all alone on the inside left channel, feeding him in style for an easy finish.
Asked after the game on Sky Germany whether his planned summer move to Spurs might be completed in January instead, Holtby said he didn't want to make a comment that might be subsequently be proven wrong.
Hannover were lucky to pull one back when Sergio Pinto's harmless edge-of-the-box hit took a huge deflection off Roman Neustädter in the 55th minute. Conceding seemed to unnerve Schalke's defense, which subsequently crumbled. Hannover broke uncontested down the right minutes later and Diouf found Huszti all alone in the box, the Hungarian volleyed home.
Having composed themselves, Holtby fed Höger to make it 3-2 and three minutes thereafter Neustädter fed Marica for another goal on 67 minutes. Yet within 60 seconds, Huszti volleyed in another Diouf cross to put the visitors back in contention.
Hannover pressed for an equalizer late on, and eventually were exposed on the counter in stoppage time. Farfan wandered unopposed towards goalie Ron-Robert Zieler, feeding Holtby for a tap-in once the keeper was committed.
The match wasn't quite finished, though; Diouf rounded out carnage with the pick of the night's nine goals, a picture-book bicycle kick past Timo Hildebrand. It still wasn't enough to stop Schalke taking three points in the 5-4 thriller.
Schalke, winless in seven Bundesliga games heading into Friday's match, gave their new coach, Jens Keller, his first win since taking charge of the club in mid-December. Hannover, meanwhile, have won just two of their last eight league matches.