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Sports

Schalke lay down challenge to Dortmund in race for second place in Bundesliga

Your play, Borussia Dortmund. Three days after taking an away point in the Ruhr derby, Schalke have put more pressure on rivals Dortmund in the battle for second place on the Bundesliga table by defeating Hertha Berlin.

Schalke's 2-0 at Gelsenkirchen against the visiting capital club shifted them above Dortmund and into second spot on the table, behind only already crowned champions Bayern Munich. Both Dortmund and Schalke are likely to claim qualification to next season's Champions League, but it is a matter of pride over which of the Ruhr clubs edges the other for the higher spot.

Dortmund's meeting with Stuttgart means Schalke's grip on that spot is perhaps only something borrowed. But for Friday night - at least - second place was something royal blue.

Schalke did their chances of winning that race with Dortmund no harm thanks to a controlled performance over Hertha, with Chinedu Obasi and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar finding the net. Obasi was involved in most of Schalke's best attacking moves, while Schalke head coach Jens Keller also had confident outings from several young prospects.

Keller has introduced one of those - Kaan Ayhan - into the first team in recent weeks, and the 19-year-old has impressed in roles in midfield and defense with composure far belying his years. He showed he poses a threat at the other end, too, sending a freekick smashing against the right-hand post of debutant Hertha goalkeeper Rune Jarstein in the ninth minute.

It was just an inch or so away from giving the hosts the lead. They did not have to wait long for that, however, with Chinedu Obasi making it 1-0 just eight minutes later. The Nigerian attacker had plenty to do when he gained possession on the right wing, but touched the ball past Levan Kobiashvili to put him one-on-one with Jarstein.

Another deft touch took the ball away from the Norwegian shotstopper, allowing Obasi to slot neatly into an empty net.

The game hit few highs in the remainder of the half, although Schalke fans would have at least been entertained by several bright passages of play in which starlets Max Meyer, 18, and Leon Goretzka, 19, were prominent.

A matter of seconds

But this was Obasi's night. Inside a minute of second-half play, the former Hoffenheim man danced his way forward before feeding Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The Dutchman finished with the sort of quality one comes to expect from a man with 11 goals in just 13 games this season, making it 2-0.

Obasi has struggled to convince at Schalke since moving permanently from Hoffenheim before the 2012-13 season, but put in one of his best shifts for the club and was a constant handful for Hertha's defense. His ability to link up with Huntelaar bodes particularly well for Schalke as they look to claim second place on the table.

Huntelaar was not able to replicate his sweet finish in two subsequent chances after his goal, while substitute Adam Szalai's dangerous ball across goal on 80 minutes was just too quick for Joel Matip to get a touch on.

Hertha had the ball in the back on the net in the 81st minute but Sebastian Langkamp's header was ruled out for no discernible reason. It robbed the visitors of a rare highlight at Gelsenkirchen, leaving them empty handed as Schalke edge above Dortmund in the race for second.