Goals from Caicara and Bentaleb against Krasnodar confirmed top spot for the Royal Blues after four wins from four. Elsewhere Mainz's Europa League campaign was put in jeopardy after they were thrashed 6-1 at Anderlecht.
Schalke 2-0 Krasnodar
(Caicara 25’, Bentaleb 28’)
Schalke confirmed their place in the first knock-out round of the Europa League with a 2-0 win over Russian side FC Krasnodar on Thursday. Due to Nice's defeat at Salzburg, the Royal Blues were also able to secure their spot as Group I winners with two games to spare.
Despite a start to the Bundesliga season that has seen them win just two games from nine, Markus Weinzierl’s team have maintained a 100 percent record in European competition.
Considering their comfortable position in the group and a taxing clash against local rivals Borussia Dortmund the weekend before, many pundits predicted Weinzierl would play a slightly weakened team yet the starting XI showed a clear intent to go for the jugular.
However, it was the Russian side who looked most threatening at first with Ricardo Laborde missing two golden close-range opportunities before Schalke settled and began to control the game.
Indeed the Gelsenkirchen side needed just 25 minutes to open the scoring when wing-back Junior Caicara latched on to the end of a looping Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting cross. Just three minutes later Nabil Bentaleb had the ball in the net for the second when he finished off a fortuitous rebound from Evgen Konoplyanka's effort.
By halftime the game was won and that showed by the manner in which Schalke sat back and chose to frustrate their opponents. Rather than goals and notable chances, the second 45 minutes were dominated by defensive tackles and a stymied Krasnodar side slowly coming to terms with the outcome of the game.
A professional win for Schalke as they keep up their perfect form in Europe.
Anderlecht 6-1 Mainz
(Stanciu 9', 41', Tielemans 62', Teodorczyk 89' 90+4', Bruno 90+2' - De Blasis 15')
With a comprehensive 6-1 hammering at Belgian side Anderlecht in the Europa League, Mainz continued a poor run of form that has seen the Bundesliga side pick up just two wins from their last seven games in all competitions.
Despite an impressive sixth-place finish in the German top division last season, Martin Schmidt's side have failed to maintain that momentum and currently find themselves ninth in the Bundesliga. Thursday's defeat to Anderlecht also sees them sitting precariously in third place in Group C, three points behind St Etienne and Anderlecht with two games left to play.
If Schmidt was still undecided as to whether his side were currently dogged by misfortune he was surely a full-blown convert to the theory when Nicolae Stanciu's mishit cross caught Mainz keeper Jonas Lossl off guard and flew in at the front post before the 10 minute mark.
Although a deflected shot that tumbled in to the Anderlecht goal from Pablo De Blasis just six minutes later suggested the German side were up for the fight, it became abundantly clear that the home team had claimed a monopoly on all incentive and indeed fortune on the night.
Before halftime Stanciu doubled his tally when a cut back found him unmarked on the cusp of the Mainz box. With all the time and space in the world the attacking midfielder then duly picked his corner and ran off to celebrate.
However things didn't get truly uncomfortable for Mainz until the second half. Any push by the visitors to salvage something from the game was quickly snuffed out by a wonderful long-range curler from Youri Tielemans just minutes after the hour mark.
At 3-1 common sense would have expected the home side to solidify their position with defensive tactics, yet instead Rene Weiler's team took to expertly picking off a desperate and ill-disciplined Mainz outfit that had long since decided to throw in the towel.
In the space of five minutes the Beligan side added three goals to their tally when Lukasz Teodorczyk headed home from a corner before a simple tap-in from Massimo Bruno and a penalty in the final moments of the game from Polish striker Teodorczyk.
Mainz were truly humbled in the Belgian capital as their misfortune continues. They may now have to win their final two games to be able to progress from the group and next visit St. Etienne on Nov. 24.