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Sports

Schalke stun Augsburg to continue march up Bundesliga table

Schalke's tale of two halves has ended in a 2-1 triumph over Augsburg. The Royal Blues rode out the hosts' dominance to continue their push up the Bundesliga table.

If it had taken structural form, the Royal Blues' defense in the first half would have been made of straw. When it was needed most in the second, however, it was solid granite.

And with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's irrepressible form continuing up front, Schalke were able to move third on the Bundesliga table, ahead of the rest of the weekend's games. Augsburg were left scratching their heads, having had 21 shots to the visitors' 10.

A number of those came in the first half, as Augsburg cut Schalke to ribbons with their direct, swift movement. It helped them take the lead after just five minutes through left winger Tobias Werner.

If Joel Matip was unconvincing in dealing with Alex Manninger's kick, Tim Hoogland was downright feeble in his subsequent header. With the Schalke right-back's header leaving him flat-footed, Werner simply swooped in and finished with the sort of style that had rewarded him with six other goals this season before the visit of Schalke.

That sort of defending was a feature for Schalke for much of the first half. Vulnerable on the counter and error prone when Augsburg took the more patient approach, the hosts could have added to their lead several times.

It was to their detriment. On 32 minutes, Kevin-Prince Boateng hit a drive Manninger could only parry into Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's path for the most simple of finishes. Somehow, it suddenly stood 1-1.

The goal came just seconds after Schalke had finally put together a decent move, but Huntelaar's strike showed Augsburg had failed to heed the warning.

After the break, it was all Schalke. It took just four minutes for Huntelaar to have his double, with the Dutchman tapping home Sead Kolasinac's cutback.

It often seems Jens Keller has a hate-hate relationship with Schalke's fans, but the club's head coach deserved credit for bringing on midfielder Kaan Ayhan at the break. The 19-year-old had a key hand in setting up his side's second goal, and completed an impressive 45 minutes for his club in just his fifth senior appearance.

Augsburg pushed hard for an equalizer as the second half wore on, with Daniel Baier and Werner working hard to test Schalke's rear guard. The hosts have been a threat for most teams on the counter this season, and they continued to be as Schalke tried to protect their lead.

Baier's mazy run on 80 minutes caused the visitors a moment of panic, while Werner's superb cross-field ball flashed dangerously over Ralf Fährmann's bar. A shot from defender Ragnar Klavan was then deflected wide in the 86th minute as Augsburg piled on the pressure, but Schalke's defense had somehow transformed from fragile in the first half to fantastic in the second.

The final whistle came shortly after Alexander Esswein had flashed Augsburg's final shot wide, leaving the hosts to ponder how they had finished with a loss. Schalke did not care a jot, and now have regional rivals Borussia Dortmund in their sights on the league table.