Schalke keep European hopes alive

FC Schalke 04 got their late European charge back on track with a convincing 4-1 win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the BayArena on Friday.

The contest was effectively over by half-time following three early goals for the visitors, who scored again five minutes into the second half, before Leverkusen eventually pulled one back.

The Royal Blues moved up to eighth spot, three points adrift of the European places, while Bayer remain four points clear of the relegation zone in 12th.

The game got off to a frenetic start, with Julian Brandt failing to beat Ralf Fahrmann just 40 seconds in after Karim Bellarabi had played him through on goal.

But Markus Weinzierl’s side broke the deadlock against the run of play on six minutes when Leon Goretzka burst into the area and laid the ball off for Guido Burgstaller to slot home the opener.

Their lead was extended just four minutes later as Benedikt Howedes headed past Bernd Leno unchallenged from Alessando Schopf’s corner.

A third goal on 18 minutes threatened to become a rout, Schopf getting his name on the scoresheet after Goretzka had twice been denied by Leno, before the Austrian midfielder followed up.

The hosts saw out the remainder of the first half without conceding again, and Bellarabi squandered the chance to pull one back moments after the restart when he dragged a shot wide of the left post from the right-hand side of the box.

They were made to pay soon afterwards as Burgstaller converted Schopf’s free-kick on the volley from close range on 50 minutes to kill off the game.

Leverkusen never gave up, though, with Brandt firing just wide on the hour mark and Bellarabi forcing a save out of Fahrmann with a strike from distance two minutes later.

Their efforts were rewarded 21 minutes from time when Bellarabi did well to send in a cross for Stefan Kiessling to score with a brave header, although the result was never in doubt.

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