The relegation crunch match between Schalke and Hertha Berlin saw the Königsblauen surge to a 5-2 win to claw their way out of the bottom two and push Sandro Schwarz’s side to the foot of the table.
Schalke surged into a 2-0 lead within the opening fifteen minutes with goals from Tim Skarke and Marius Bülter only for Stevan Jovetic to pull one back in first half stoppage time.
The second period saw the hots restore their lead early on through Simon Terodde and a second from Bülter put the result beyond doubt. A goal from Marco Richter was cosmetic before an injury time free-kick from Marcin Kaminski put the icing on the cake for the home side.
Here are five takeaways from the Friday night action
1. Thomas Reis demanded more- and got it
Schalke coach Thomas Reis didn’t hold back in his criticism of his players following last week’s meek defeat to Hoffenheim accusing them of not being up for the fight, but tonight he got the precise reaction he was looking for, which bodes well for the season run-in.
The hosts came out of the blocks hungrier than the visitors, were quick into the duels and pressed Hertha aggressively. Tim Skarke’s excellently taken goal after just three minutes was the ideal start and they doubled their lead on the quarter hour mark. Ralf Fährmann made a top save to deny Jovetic before being forced off with an injury, but replacement Alexander Schwolow (ex-Hertha) deputised ably.
The entire game saw Schalke on top with a very positive attitude and if they can carry this forward, their dire situation may yet be redeemable.
2. The ex-Union boys do the damage
Schalke’s win sent Hertha to the bottom of the table and as fate would have it, it was two former Union Berlin players who did the majority of the damage. Winger Tim Skarke only made three appearances for die Eisernen, but was key to Schalke’s first half display. He scored a brilliant individual goal to open the scoring before providing the cross for the second.
Sadly for him a cut to the foot sustained in trying to defend Hertha’s first half goal ended his participation, but his 45 minute shift was top notch. Marius Bülter has been one of Schalke’s brighter performers this season and helped himself to two goals. The ex-Unioner headed home the second before beating Oliver Christensen to the ball to lob home the fourth.
3. Hertha’s uphill battle just got steeper
Some called it a ‘six-pointer’ others a ‘must-win’, but the fact is that Hertha find themselves bottom of the Bundesliga table with just six games remaining and face a mammoth task to stay in the top-flight. The loss at the Veltins Arena has handed the initiative to their competitors and Stuttgart, Bochum and Hoffenheim have the chance to put more distance between themselves and die Alte Dame this weekend.
Hertha face Werder Bremen at home next weekend before a daunting trip to Bayern Munich. They then have further relegation dogfights with Stuttgart and Bochum. There is still a glimmer of hope but the glass is definitely half empty, rather than half full.
4. Individual quality not enough for Hertha
Despite the heavy scoreline, Hertha did show plenty of glimpses of individual quality, but the team as a whole just lacks what is needed right now. Dodi Lukebakio endeavoured down the right, while Jovetic showed his class despite his advancing years.
The issue for Sandro Schwarz right now is that the sum of the parts just doesn’t add up to a Bundesliga surviving side and last year’s escape via the play-offs looks like a stay of execution. Some Hertha fans must be planning their away trips in the 2.Bundesliga already.
5. Just the first step for the Königsblauen
Impressive as the scoreline is and as morale-boosting as the win is, this is not the end of the fight for Schalke. The win takes them into 15th, but they are still only two points off the bottom and have a tricky run-in to come.
They still face Bayern, Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig in their final six matches all of whom will be battling for points at the top of the table. This win over Hertha has shown there is still life in the team, but nobody should be getting carried away that the trapdoor to the second tier has closed. It hasn’t and still looms large.