WERDER BREMEN 1-1 SCHALKE (BUNDESLIGA)
Second place chasing Schalke were close to slipping up against a determined Werder Bremen side but managed to escape with a valuable point in their quest to overhaul Borussia Dortmund.
Werder Bremen manager Robin Dutt named the same starting eleven that beat Hannover 96 with Franco Di Santo and Eljero Elia leading the line. Schalke made just one change with Max Meyer dropping to the bench with Kevin Prince Boateng preferred on his return from suspension.
Bremen began the game on the front foot, not allowing Schalke any time and space in possession and troubling Kaan Ayhan and Joel Matip at the back with long balls into Di Santo and Elia up front. Despite this, Bremen couldn’t get in behind to trouble Ralf Fahrmann in the Schalke goal until 10 minutes in. Cedric Makiadi launched a hopeful punt down the left hand side which Elia managed to get to first. The Dutch winger came inside the area and slipped in an overlapping Aaron Hunt down the left hand side of the box. The Bremen playmaker fired a cross-shot right across Fahrmann’s goal but it couldn’t find Di Santo nor the far corner of the goal. It was a warning for Schalke and five minutes later, they were breached.
Another long ball to Elia was not dealt with by Ayhan and the Dutch winger was gifted too much room by three Schalke defenders to turn and play a lovely through ball to an onrushing Di Santo on his left. The Argentine striker had a horrible angle for his shot and Fahrmann bearing down on him but he managed to just squeeze it under the legs of the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. It was only Di Santo’s fourth goal in the Bundesliga and a richly deserved one for Bremen. And within seconds they were almost celebrating a second.
Di Santo was released on the left by Hunt and with no support the striker decided to go for goal from the edge of the area. However, he could only watch in frustration as his left footed shot hit the post and rebounded out before being cleared. Schalke were on the ropes and the Bremen crowd was roaring their team on.
Schalke did eventually begin to grab a foothold in the game. They began to dominate possession but their passing in the final third left a whole lot to be desired. It also took them 20 minutes to get a shot on goal and even then it was an amabitious long range effort from the highly-rated German youngster Julian Draxler that sailed wide. Eventually though, Schalke’s possession paid off.
The away side were given a very contentious free kick for a handball by Zlatko Junuzovic on the left which Boateng switched over to Chinedu Obasi on the right. The Nigerian winger was allowed space to send a cross in which Sebastian Prodl attempted to clear. However, his header was straight to Leon Goretzka on the edge of the area who took a touch before hammering a half volley through the crowd of players and into the bottom corner of the net. It was an equaliser out of nothing for Schalke and not a well deserved one at that.
They had Bremen on the ropes and almost took the lead seconds later. Roman Neustadter released Obasi in behind but the Nigerian was denied in the one-on-one by Raphael Wolf. The follow up fell straight to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who placed it past Wolf but was stopped by a recovering Prodl 3 yards from the line. It was a huge moment for Prodl who kept his team level in the game.
The away side continued to dominate the ball for the rest of the half but found Bremen to be resolute in defence. Indeed, their only notable chance was a hopeful shot from range by Goretzka that Wolf dealt with very comfortably. That would prove to be the last bit of action of an entertaining first half.
The second period began in much the same way as the first. Bremen played direct and at a high tempo, forcing a number of set pieces while Schalke struggled to hold onto the ball. The first real chance though came from a Bremen corner. Draxler worked his way out of tight situation in his own half before releasing Goretzka on the left. The goalscorer switched the ball to Huntelaar on the right who came inside and fired a left shot on goal. Wolf couldn’t hold on but managed to recover before Obasi could tap in from 6 yards out.
Bremen kept working however and Makiadi gave Schalke a fright not long after. Hunt’s header was chested down by Di Santo into the path of Makiadi who battered a shot first time just wide before Makiadi and substitute Theodore Gebre Selassie headed wide from good positions.
Bremen were now battering Schalke with set pieces and wave after wave of attacks but to the credit of the away side they defended well and kept chances to a minimum. However, with seven minutes to go they were thankful for Fahrmann. Hunt whipped in a corner from the left which the keeper punched clear. Schalke were slow to get out and the ball fell to Junuovic 25 yards out whose half volley was heading until Fahrmann brilliantly turned it around the post. Fahrmann also had to be alert to keep out a shot from Santiago Garcia late on as Bremen pushed for the win but Schalke were able to hold out for a point.
WERDER BREMEN: Wolf, Fritz (c) (Obraniak 89), Prodl, Caldirola, Garcia, Bargfrede, Junuzovic, Makiadi, Hunt, Elia (Petersen 82), Di Santo (Gebre Selassie 56)
SUBS: Mielitz, Lukimya, Ekici, Ignjovksi
GOAL: Di Santo
YELLOW: Di Santo
SCHALKE: Fahrmann, Hoogland, Ayhan, Matip, Kolasinac, Goretzka, Neustadter, Obasi (Meyer 72), Boateng, Draxler, Huntelaar (c) (Szalai 89)
SUBS: Hildebrand, Papadopoulos, Max, Annan, Friedrich
YELLOW: Ayhan, Hoogland
MAN OF THE MATCH: ELJERO ELIA (WERDER BREMEN)