Champions League encounter to foreign opposition at the Emirates.”
These words from the Arsenal programme were all too poignant come the end of Wednesday night. That proud record of the Gunners had disappeared by then, as Schalke continued what has been a glorious last week.
So they’d won away at their arch rivals and Champions of Germany, Borussia Dortmund – impressive. Their victory at the Emirates wasn’t too bad either. Because for the second time in five days, Schalke came away from home and outclassed top opposition. It’s easy to write off Arsenal’s performance as insipid but in all honesty, the side from Gelsenkirchen made them look that way. Schalke kept their discipline so well that it wasn’t until a minute before the end of the game that goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall had to make a save.
The home side had threatened in the first half. Atsuto Uchida looked vulnerable at times as the Gunners poured down the left hand side but anything that went into the box was dealt with by Joel Matip or Benedikt Höwedes. Any hopes Arsenal had of breaking down their visitors were effectively ended when Huub Stevens brought on Jermaine Jones for Marco Höger at half time.
Jones was unlucky to not be picked for the Revierderby at the weekend, having been in good form this season. His presence on the pitch at the Emirates seemed to fix any leaks there were in the first half as Arsenal could not create a clear-cut chance in the second.
Schalke weren’t having such problems as they probed down either flank, and it was down the right hand side where they were having most joy. André Santos cut a lonely figure as time and again, Jefferson Farfan, or Uchida, found space down the right to deliver into the box. It should have produced a goal at the end of the first half but last season’s top scorer in the Bundesliga, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar put wide from just a few yards – an altogether puzzling experience.
If Arsenal expected to get away with giving another great chance to a man with the nickname “The Hunter,” then they were mistaken. Huntelaar lashed in a one-on-one in the second half to give Schalke a deserved lead in London.
Suddenly the home side had an urgency about them which hadn’t been present for the previous 75 minutes. Schalke weren’t worried though as they killed off the hosts five minutes from time. As on Saturday in Dortmund, their second came from a simple counter attack. This time Ibrahim Afellay finished off Jefferson Farfan’s cross, setting off a silent fire alarm across the Emirates as the home faithful disappeared swiftly into the night. In one noisy corner of the stadium, celebrations were under way. It had been another great night for Schalke.
In truth, it had been a great night for the Bundesliga as well, especially with Borussia Dortmund’s victory over Real Madrid. It’s commonplace to hear the division being praised for its fans, for its atmosphere, for the stadiums and in general, for the sensible policies in place in German football. Yet performances in Europe, excluding Bayern Munich, have belied the quality of football in the country. Wednesday night proved to Europe just how capable the likes of Schalke are.
Domestically, the Gelsenkirchen outfit are seven points behind Bayern in the Bundesliga title race but having ended Arsenal’s proud record at the Emirates, Schalke showed they have nothing to fear.
Article orginally written @ Gone With The Rhind