VfB Stuttgart 3-0 Schalke 04

Posted on August 6, 2011

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SCHALKE 04 were brought crashing back down to earth following the Super Cup win over champions Dortmund after being swept aside by a rampant Stuttgart side in a three-goal victory for the hosts.

Cacau opened the scoring in front of national team coach Joachim Löw before Martin Harnik doubled the home side’s advantage in the second half. Substitute Shinji Okazaki secured a perfect start for Bruno Labbadia’s side with a lovely goal just two minutes from the end.

VfB Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia decided to start Khalid Boulahrouz at right-back ahead of Celozzi who played the 90 minutes in the DFB Pokal victory over SV Wehen Wiesbaden. Defender Serdar Tasci was brought back in to the starting eleven in favour of Ermin Bicakcic who lasted just half an hour last weekend before coming off with an injury.

After a disappointing campaign last season, Stuttgart had their eyes set on a top-half finish and reaching the Europa League positions. Labbadia and sporting director Fredi Bobic brought some much-needed quality to the Stuttgart squad with William Kvist from Copenhagen, PSV’s Mexican defender Maza and Tamas Hajnal joining the club over the close season for a combined fee overall of £5m.

The visitors made two changes from the stunning 11-1 victory over FC Teningen in the DFB Pokal First Round with Ralf Fährmann, the hero of the Super Cup victory over Dortmund, starting in goal ahead of 21-year-old Lars Unnerstall. Jermaine Jones, who spent last season at Blackburn Rovers, comes in for Julian Draxler with Holtby starting on the left of the 4-2-3-1.

VfB Stuttgart 3-0 Schalke 04: 90 minutes

The new-look Mercedes Benz Arena was packed to its 60,000 capacity with Stuttgart starting the match on the front-foot but Martin Harnik’s early dart in to the Schalke box only resulted in a goal kick to the visitors.

And Stuttgart continued to ask questions of the opposition and on nine minutes Christian Gentner sneaked in behind Benedikt Howedes and went down just outside the penalty box but referee Wolfgang Stark was not fooled and the midfielder picked up a yellow card for simulation.

On 11 minutes, the hosts were just inches away from taking the lead when Gentner played a neat pass over the top for Harnik who had nipped in behind and his weak touch was collected by Ralf Fahrmann.

But at the other end, new signing Christian Fuchs asked the first questions of Ulreich in the Stuttgart goal with a free-kick from 25 yards which forced the keeper to parry away from goal.

Stuttgart were the better side overall in the opening 25 minutes and striker Cacau called Fahrmann in to action again with a flick-on header from Hajnal’s free-kick.

Schalke were always dangerous going forward and they were not far away from opening the scoring through Papadopolous who headed wide at the back post.

Raul was the next to test the Stuttgart defence when Baumjohann crossed from the right and the 34-year-old Spaniard nipped in between Tasci and Maza to head wide.

However, the home side took the lead on 36 minutes when Cacau headed home from Tamas Hajnal’s deep corner kick which was not defended well at all from Ralf Rangnick’s side.

Stuttgart’s supporting midfielders – Gentner, Hajnal and Harnik – were working well from Cacau’s touches and Gentner had another attempt on goal from the edge of the box which went wide of the right-hand post.

Harnik had a great chance to double Stuttgart’s lead when he was one-on-one with Fahrmann but the Schalke keeper blocked well about 12 yards out.

It did not take Stuttgart long to double their lead and Martin Harnik headed home the second goal on 55 minutes when a neatly worked free-kick and cross from left-back Molinaro to the far post was met by the head of Harnik and left Fahrmann with no chance.

Schalke were looking toothless in attack and Huntelaar had very little service from the supporting attackers, Raul, Holtby and Baumjohann. Rangnick removed Matip at half-time and replaced him with youngster Julian Draxler to add some creativity to the team. Just after the hour mark, Lewis Holtby was replaced by Goncalves Edu with Schalke reverting to two main centre-forwards, with Raul in a deeper role.

Rangnick soon made his third change of the afternoon with Jan Moravek coming on for Alexander Baumjohann and Die Konigsblauen dropping Moravek back in to the middle of the park.

But Schalke looked to exploit the wide areas with Hoger and Fuchs pressing high up the park and an over-lapping run from Fuchs created an opportunity for Jan Moravek who could not divert the ball past Ulreich.

Sven Ulreich was having an excellent performance in the Stuttgart goal and he saved well from Edu’s header after another cross from right-back Hoger. From the resulting corner, he showed some quick reactions to save from Papadopolous’ flick after Fuchs drilled the ball in low from inside the box.

Against the run of play, Stuttgart added a third just two minutes from the end when substitute Shinji Okazaki collected the ball on the right-hand side before cutting on to his left at the edge of the box and firing home a wonderful left-foot effort in to the far corner with Fahrmann helpless and secure three points on the opening day for Stuttgart.

Stuttgart: Impressive attacking performance from hosts

Bruno Labbadia saw his side get off to the ideal start in the Bundesliga against a good Schalke side who were the better team in the last 25 minutes and easily could have scored three or four if it was not for Sven Ulreich.

But for the majority of the game, Stuttgart were causing the visitors all-sorts of problems on the counter attack and the movement from the supporting attackers, in particular, was where the home side won the game in my view.

Martin Harnik had a terrific season in 2010-11 for Stuttgart and he continued where he left off with a goal on the opening day and a very decent performance. Harnik started on the right of the 4-2-3-1 and on many occasions, his intelligent movement in behind Schalke’s back-four created opportunities for the home side. His movement carved open some space for him to head home the opening goal on 55 minutes from Molinaro’s cross.

The likes of Christian Gentner and Tamas Hajnal were working very well off the scraps from Cacau’s tidy ball control and Schalke’s defence could not get to grips with Stuttgart’s attack during the game. Hajnal, who joined from Dortmund for £1m, was in a central role behind Cacau but was equally as adept at dropping in to the middle of the park to link with Kvist and Kuzmanovic.

Both of Stuttgart’s central midfielders enjoyed good performances, Kvist, in particular, looks an astute piece of business at just under £4m.

Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki capped off a wonderful afternoon for Labbadia’s side after coming on in the last ten minutes and firing home the goal of the day with an excellent left-foot shot from the 20 yards out.

Schalke: Rangnick error should have been avoided

There was an optimism around Schalke heading in to their first Bundesliga match of the season, and understandably so, given they beat Dortmund in the Super Cup and trounced FC Teningen last weekend.

But poor defending from Schalke on several occasions gifted Stuttgart goals, and at times, against the run of play with Schalke having their fair share of chances as well in the second half.

Ralf Rangnick’s decision to leave Julian Draxler out of the starting eleven eventually came back to haunt the former Hoffenheim coach with the teenager impressing in his second half performance. Rangnick decided to opt for a more cautious approach and start Jermaine Jones and Joel Matip in midfield, rather than keeping Holtby in the centre of the park.

Instead, it was Holtby on the left; Raul in the middle; Baumjohann on the right, behind Huntelaar and the visitors lacked a creative spark in the final third for over an hour. The Dutch striker had very little to feed on in the first half, and even in the second, the vast majority of Schalke’s chances came from set-pieces and crosses from wider areas.

Especially after such a victory last week in the DFB Pokal and with the players high on confidence, it makes no sense to drop, arguably, your most creative player – I would say so anyway.

Not a good afternoon for Die Konigsblauen.

MOTM: Martin Harnik (Stuttgart)

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Posted in: Matches