Schalke break Hoffenheim's resistance

After a successful international break for Hoffenheim's individuals, the group returned to work for their club in the hope of a positive, collective achievement. Sadly, despite battling against the home side for over an hour, Hoffenheim couldn't hold out and Schalke took the lead before sealing the game to run out 3-0 winners.

Marco Kurz had a long time to consider his options ahead of the Schalke match and, after having no new injury worries after the international week, opted to make only one change to his line up with Fabian Johnson replacing Stephan Schröck. A trip to Gelsenkirchen might not have seemed ideal for Hoffenheim but having defeated Schalke 3-2 earlier on in the season in dramatic fashion, they entered the away fixture with a great deal of belief. Yet even with a certain degree of confidence, Schalke are still a difficult opponent to contain and eight minutes in, the home side nearly took the lead but Farfan blazed over on the volley. Two minutes later and the same man failed to get a touch on Uchida's low cross as Keller's side sought an early lead.

Hoffenheim were struggling to build up possession and change the momentum in their favour as the 20 minute mark approached. Keller's side remained the more dangerous but Bastos' central free kick failed to bring about the opener, drifting a foot wide. With Schalke not taking their chances, Hoffenheim roamed forward in an attempt to make some of their own. Joselu found himself through on the right-hand side of the box but Hildebrand closed down the angle before making the save to keep the game goalless. As much as Gomes was kept busier than his opponent, Hoffenheim dealt with Schalke's attacking forays with increasing confidence. The sheer stubbornness of Kurz's men proved to be frustrating for the home team but Hoffenheim needed to be more courageous in their own attacks if they were to take more than a point from the game. Still, going in level at the break certainly offered Marco Kurz a good platform to achieve that.

Höger breaks TSG's resistance

The second half started with a second helping of what both sides had stomached in the first as Schalke continued to try to find a way through a well-positioned TSG. Hoffenheim roamed forward on a rare counter attack but the final ball was misplaced and the chance was gone. The game was becoming a largely forgettable Bundesliga encounter but then Schalke executed a fantastic counter attack which finished with Farfan squaring the ball to Marco Höger on the edge of the area. The defensive midfielder curled an effort just past the fingertips of Gomes to give Schalke a lead. It was a crushing blow for Kurz's men and it wasn't long before the home side converted their dominance into another goal. Kolasinac put a ball in from the left-hand side of the box and substitute Raffael turned his body to side-foot into the far corner to seal the three points. Unfortunately for TSG, there was still enough time for Schalke to add to the scoreline and Farfan picked up his second assist of the day when Teemu Pukki clipped a third in off the far post.

Hoffenheim's defeat, combined with Augsburg's 2-0 loss to Hannover 96, means that the gap remains four points between the two sides battling for the relegation play-off spot. Next week gives TSG another chance to potentially close that gap when they open matchday 28 on Friday 5th April at 20.30 CET by hosting Fortuna Düsseldorf.

Jonathan Harding

FC Schalke 04:
Hildebrand – Uchida, Höwedes, Matip, Kolasinac – Höger, Neustädter – Farfan, Draxler (83' Barnetta), Michel Bastos (62' Raffael) – Marica (74' Pukki)

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim:
Gomes – Beck, Abraham, Vestergaard, Johnson (74' Salihovic) – Weis, Williams (82' Schipplock) – Ochs, Volland, Firmino – Joselu

Goals: 1-0 Höger (71'), 2-0 Raffael (79'), 3-0 Pukki (83')

Yellow cards:
Neustädter - Vestergaard, Firmino
Referee:Dr. Felix Brych

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