Bundesliga: Gregoritsch′s dazzling debut suggests Schalke are serious | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 17.01.2020
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Bundesliga: Gregoritsch's dazzling debut suggests Schalke are serious

Michael Gregoritsch scored one and made the other as Schalke got the second half of their season off to a flyer. The Austrian was making his debut after a dispute with Augsburg and has Euro 2020 in his sights.

Schalke 2-0 Borussia MönchengladbachVeltins Arena
(Serdar 48', Gregoritsch 58')

Plenty of the Bundesliga's January transfer talk has revolved around Schalke, and a player determined to find a way out of his club. But while all eyes, keyboards and smartphones have been focused on Alexander Nübel's move to Bayern Munich, a low key loan signing from Augsburg hogged the spotlight and the points at the Veltins Arena on Friday.

After laying on the opener for Suat Serdar, Michael Gregoritsch wrapped up three points that take Schalke above rivals Borussia Dortmund, at least temporarily, and in to the Champions League spots as the Bundesliga returned from its winter hibernation. 

As he swept home after brilliant work on the counter from the effervescent Benito Raman and the classy Serdar, Gregoritsch whipped out his trademark baseball swing celebration, one last seen back in May when he hit a brace off the bench for Augsburg in a 4-3 loss to Hertha Berlin.

That bench became much too familiar for the 25-year-old this season though as Martin Schmidt sidelined the tall, elegant forward. He'd played just 303 Bundesliga minutes all season before Friday night and just five since October 6. Such limited opportunities frustrated Gregoritsch and a war of words played out between player and club, ending in a terse statement from Augsburg in late December that labeled him "unsatisfied" with his playing time and the loan deal with the Royal Blues a "win-win".

Rapid redemption

Whether Augsburg still see it that way must be open to debate. Gregoritsch was outstanding on Friday. Amid a frantic and frenzied opening, he had the best of the early chances but was denied brilliantly by Yann Sommer at the back post in the sixth minute.

The wasted chance did nothing to dent his confidence though and the former Hamburg man always looked to have a little more time on the ball than most, as demonstrated by a sublime curled through ball to strike partner Raman just before the half-hour mark. The former Fortuna Düsseldorf man couldn't beat Sommer though.

"You can imagine the feeling when you haven’t played in half a year and you miss those chances early on. I can’t say on TV what I was thinking, but you push on, that’s all you can do," Gregoritsch told German broadcaster ZDF after the game.

A different option

That wasn't quite all he could do. Later in the first half, with Marcus Thuram's header looping over Nübel's suspension replacement Markus Schubert and destined for the far corner, Gregoritsch popped up to head off the line, the first of numerous key contributions.

Gregoritsch sweeps home on his Schalke debut (Imago Images/Kirchner-Media/C. Neundorf)

Gregoritsch sweeps home on his Schalke debut

His aerial ability at the other end certainly added another string to Schalke's attacking bow but that they attacked so freely with a new man leading the line and without their creative fulcrum Amine Harit is testament to how well David Wagner and the club have integrated their loan signing.

After finally forcing his move through, Gregoritsch was relatively diplomatic, citing his desire to play for his country at Euro 2020 as a major factor in his desire to leave. If he keeps this up, that won't be his only taste of European football this year.

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