Schalke 2-3 Galatasaray: Ex-Schalke man Altintop knocks out Germans
Galatasaray progressed to the quarterfinals of the Champions League after defeating Schalke 3-2 (4-3 on aggregate) in the second leg of their Round of 16 clash.
Schalke were without Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for this one, as the striker got injured during the weekend’s fixture match against Borussia Dortmund. Teemu Pukki, who only started five times this season started as striker in a usual 4-2-3-1 formation.
But the main talking point was how Fatih Terim would incorporate Burak Yilmaz, Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder in his starting lineup. Surprisingly, he went with a 4-3-1-2 instead of usual 4-4-2, with Sneijder playing behind Burak Yilmaz and Drogba.
This was a match of two halves. Galatasaray were extremely positive going into the match and pressed Schalke all over the pitch, and sat back with the lead in the second half.
Going into the match, Galatasaray’s 4-3-1-2 diamond setup meant that both the full backs were exposed and Schalke would have a numerical advantage on both flanks, especially the right one with Jefferson Farfan and Atsuto Uchida, who assisted both the goals in the weekend game against Dortmund. Galatasaray’s leftback Albert Riera is a winger converted to a fullback, and that, in theory, could have worked in Schalke’s favour.
But to Galatasaray’s credit, they dominated all over the pitch in the opening exchanges and clearly were the better team. Julian Draxler playing high to support Pukki meant Galatasaray had numerical advantage in the central area with Sneijder, Selcuk Inan, Hamit Altintop coming inside and Didier Drogba dropping deep against Schalke’s Roman Neustadter and Marco Hoger. This meant Schalke had to defend extremely narrow and had a knock on effect on their attacking play with full backs not able to get forward. Schalke would score the first goal against the run of play but Galatasaray would get ahead in the game before half time with a peach of a strike from Hamit Altintop and some good centre forward play from Burak Yilmaz for the second goal.
With a two-goal cushion, Galatasaray sat back in the second half with a low defensive block, thus inviting pressure from Schalke. Jens Keller replaced Roman Neustadter with Christian Fuchs, with Sead Kolasinac coming into left side of midfield. This would have an effect almost immediately, with Fuchs comfortable going forward and Kolasinac playing in his favourable position. The home side had several opportunities to level the score, and they finally scored through Michel Bastos after a rebound off the crossbar of Marco Hoger’s effort. But the crucial element would be Uchida getting into the box and assisting Bastos for the goal, as he started to get into the attacking areas thus setting up a 2 vs 1 along with Farfan against Riera. To his credit, Terim recognized this before it was too late and took Sneijder off for Nordin Amrabat, a naturally-wide player, to help Riera by moving to a 4-4-2 and thus neutralising Schalke’s attack in that region.
Altintop the man
Although his goal itself would have guaranteed him the man of the match award, it was the Gelsenkirchen-born man’s work rate which was more impressive. He played the the Carrilero role to perfection, shuttling across the pitch. More importantly, he had to protect Emmanuel Eboue from Michel Bastos and Julian Draxler, who were trying to overload that region. He completed 31 out of 40 passes, with a success rate of 78% and 3/3 successful interceptions, and was Galatasaray’s most important player on the pitch.
In the end, Schalke just didn’t have enough strength on the bench due to injuries to several players, and looked exhausted. Their game plan was a bit confusing though, and they clearly missed Huntelaar upfront. Their cross accuracy was woefully low, with only 5 out of 34 won. Although Huntelaar is by far a better player than Teemu Pukki, the latter wasn’t served with the kind of service he would have liked. Huntelaar holds the ball well using his physicality and brings others into play, and thrives on crosses, but Pukki couldn’t do the same. Julian Draxler was once again by far their best player, and he showed glimpses of what he is capable of. Galatasaray are the only team from Group H into the quarterfinals, and with Burak Yilmaz scoring at an incredible rate, along with a fully-fit Drogba, it will be fascinating to see how far they go in this competition.