Julian Draxler’s 82nd minute goal put a huge dent in Borussia Monchengladbach’s hopes for European football as Schalke came away from the Borussia Park Stadion with a 1-0 win.
In a tense local derby between two challengers for UEFA Champions League places, it was the Royal Blues who moved six points clear of fifth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt with the victory.
Gladbach’s loss means they remain a point outside of the top six, but could have snatched a point when Martin Stranzl volleyed over late one from six yards.
The first half was a dour affair with neither side showing the quality to take control of the game. Peniel Mlapa should have done much better when he raced onto Patrick Herrmann’s pull-back, but he blazed well wide with the first time effort from ten yards.
Up the other end, Michel Bastos came inside onto his dangerous left foot and curled low towards the bottom corner from 25 yards, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a good one-handed save to keep the scores level at half time.
The home side nearly took the lead in the 52nd minute. Granit Xhaka was signed from FC Basel in the summer and unleashed a stunning low volley from 18 yards, but it flew inches wide from opening the scoring. A minute later, the midfielder went closer as he curled a great left-footed shot towards goal from 30 yards, but it clipped the top of the crossbar.
Up the other end, ter Stegen had to be on high alert when Bastos drilled a powerful low shot towards goal from 25 yards, but the German goalkeeper did well to tip the ball around the post.
It was Gladbach who were the bigger attacking threat and they hit the woodwork again in the 63rd minute. Juan Arango let fly with his trusted left-foot and Timo Hildebrand was helpless as it came back off the post. It was bad goalkeeping and the former Real Mallorca midfielder was desperately unlucky not to score.
Draxler’s 9th goal of the season came with just eight minutes to go. Raffael did very well to slide the ball through to the 20-year-old and he rifled it past ter Stegen from eight yards. It was a very good finish and it deserved to win the game for the away side.
They could have doubled their lead and sealed the win six minutes later. It was Raffael again who worked the opportunity by pulling back for 18-year-old substitute Max Meyer, but he blazed over from ten yards.
Schalke held on for the three points, but only due to Stranzl wasting a wonderful opportunity in the 91st minute. Arango’s free-kick fell all the way through to the back post and the central defender volleyed at goal from close range, but the ball flew over the crossbar. With that, the chance of a point was gone for Gladbach.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)