Schalke's young players delivered for them at the start of matchday 15 at home against Hannover, and likely they will all season. Leroy Sane, Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka delivered brilliant performances.
Schalke 3-1 Hannover
(Geis pen. 52', Huntelaar 72', di Santo 82' - Saint-Maxim 81')
It was youthful intent that saw Schalke come through at the start of matchday 15, and it might well be the same story come the end of the season. Leroy Sane (19) has caught the headlines and much Premier League appeal so far this season, while Max Meyer (20) and Leon Goretzka (20) have shown maturity beyond their years. On Friday night, the trio combined to drive Schalke to a gritty home win against a largely disappointing Hannover side.
A tepid first half was lit up by Sane's dribbling, Meyer's directness and Goretzka's control. In short, anything of note from the home side came from at least one of the three starlets. With a combined age of 59 years and just 151 Bundesliga games under their collective belt, there is a remarkable poise to their play. Meyer's assist for the second, Sane's cross that led to the third - it is exactly what Andre Breitenreiter's side needed on the night, but also what they need if this season is to be a successful one.
Coming into the game, Schalke were on a run of five winless Bundesliga games and only had two wins in their last 10 competitive games. It was a far cry from the start to Breitenreiter's reign, when Schalke were steaming along thanks to six consecutive wins. A derby defeat and a missed opportunity against Leverkusen left them stuttering. Step forward, the club's youthful trio.
Before the game, Schalke's fans put on a fantastic choreography to celebrate the club's past achievements
Having been bright but unrewarded in the first half, Schalke's youngsters found solace in the second 45 minutes. Surprisingly though, it was the returning Johannes Geis who opened the scoring. Marcelo's foul on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was perhaps the clearest penalty of the season and Geis scored confidently to remind fans just how valuable his set-pieces are.
With Goretzka the supporting platform, Schalke gradually grew braver. Meyer drove unopposed to deliver a cross. With the help of a deflection from Marcelo (his second assist for Schalke on the night), Huntelaar smashed home in the box. For a brief moment, Schalke wobbled but 46 seconds later they steadied their legs. Once again, Sane's strong run down the right made the difference, substitute Franco di Santo eventually headed in.
The youth of Sane, Meyer and Goretzka won the game for Schalke, but also revealed the club's collective potential. Huntelaar and Sascha Riether are both 32 years old and are by far the oldest regulars in the squad. Geis is just 22, Joel Matip 24, while captain Benedikt Höwedes and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting are peaking at 27 and 26 respectively. The pieces are there for Schalke.They must avoid the kind of dramatic swing in form that up until this point had split their season in two. Now, it's time for part three and the club's young trio are ready to play their part.