Schalke have tightened their grip on fourth position in the Bundesliga, courtesy of a late winning goal from Julian Draxler against Borussia Mönchengladbach. The anemic scoreline was unworthy of the action-packed match.
Schalke secured their first win at the Borussiapark stadium since 2006, also inflicting a first Friday defeat of the season on Borussia Mönchengladbach.
A lovely one-two between attacking midfielders Julian Draxler and Raffael led to the night's only goal. Draxler, cutting in from the left onto his stronger right foot, cracked a low finish past a helpless Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Gladbach goal.
Although the match began tensely, marked more by crunching tackles than flowing football, it evolved into more of an end-to-end game, where only the end product was lacking.
"It wasn't the prettiest game for the fans, but for us, at the end of the day, it's the three points that matter. We fought with everything we had," the 19-year-old matchwinner Draxler told Sky Deutschland after the game.
Knocking on woodwork
Gladbach had one particularly noteworthy late chance to tie the score, created by a Juan Arango free kick. Defender Martin Stranzl got free at the far post, but put his close-range shot well over the crossbar.
Prior to taking the lead in the 82nd minute, Schalke's goalie Timo Hildebrand twice had to thank the frame of his goal. Gladbach's Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka rattled the Schalke crossbar with a splendid second-half shot and then Hildebrand appeared to misjudge a rather tame curler from Arango that nearly crept inside the post.
At the other end, Schalke's impressive loanee Michel Bastos forced ter Stegen into sharp saves on more than one occasion. Schalke had the most of the ball, but only outshot Gladbach by 15 to 12, in a game where both sides might have found the net on two or three occasions.
Schalke right-back Atsuto Uchida had to go off at half time after picking up a nasty knock to the chest and chin in the first period. The Japanese international was taken to the hospital for treatment for a concussion.
Schalke tighten their grip on fourth position with the three points, securing that spot no matter what their rivals do in the course of the weekend. Gladbach, meanwhile, miss the chance to jump up from seventh position, and could drop below Hamburg and Hannover if those sides score well.
Champions League final dress rehearsal
The pick of the weekend's Bundesliga fixtures is surely a dry run of May 25's Champions League final. Fresh from besting Barcelona and Real Madrid, new champions Bayern face defending title holders Borussia Dortmund in Saturday's evening game. The downside, however, is that the surely tired teams are both liable to rest a few stars for a Bundesliga encounter in Dortmund where only pride is at stake.
Arguably the most important game of the weekend is the relegation scrap between second-bottom Hoffenheim and the wobbling Werder Bremen, who are far too close to the drop zone for comfort. Augsburg and Düsseldorf, the other players in the relegation fight, both have tough away games at Freiburg and Frankfurt, respectively.