Raul and his Schalke 04 side were the talk of the Bundesliga before Saturday’s Super Cup. In 170 countries across the world people tuned in to see Raul lead his new side over last year’s Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich. The pre-match build up was intense in the press, and coming off Schalke’s pre-season victory over Bayern less than a week ago the result for Raul seemed a foregone conclusion.
Apparently Bayern Munich did not get the memo informing them of Schalke and Raul’s ascendency, as the perennial power house Bayern refused to give an inch.
The match was a tense affair and for a half Schalke looked every bit of Bayern’s equal. In typical German fashion the match featured a rough and tumble style with both sides committing professional fouls to disrupt their opponents. Despite the 30 odd fouls only two yellow cards were brandished and neither proved pivotal to the outcome.
The first two clear chances of the match were Schalke’s the best coming off a corner in the 71st minute, but Kraft the Bayern keeper made a reflex save to stop a sure go ahead goal.
Schalke were on the front foot and just as they began to push for a goal seemingly sensing Bayern’s weakness, Daniel Pranjic pounced on a loose ball in the midfield. Looking up Pranjic sent a perfectly weighted through ball into the heart of Schalke’s defense, as Klose sprung the offside trap. It was a race to the ball German International Miroslav Klose racing forward from the center circle, and Schalke’s defenders caught on the wrong foot by the ever present poacher a step behind.
As Klose raced onto the ball the Schalke keeper Manuel Nuer came out to challenge him. Nuer had effectively cut the angle and Klose had no shot, but just as Schalke’s defenders reached the play Klose with the deft touch of a surgeon touched the ball over Nuer to his left and into the path of an on rushing Thomas Muller who had to hold his run to stay onside. Muller finished without hesitation from 12 meters out into the lower right corner.
After 74 minutes of battling for a mental edge over the champions the challengers Schalke looked dejected. It was now Bayern bossing the challengers off the ball. As Schalke began to regain some of the confidence Klose had taken from them, lighting struck for a second time.
In the 80th minute with Schalke looking desperate to bring the match level, Ivica Olic, the Bayern forward who played on the right and battled all day won a ball on the left of Schalke’s defense, and he was off. As Olic cut inside with a trio of step-overs as if to pay homage to injured Bayern winger Arjen Robben the Schalke defense seemed mesmerized As he neared the goal Schalke reacted and looked to have closed off his shooting angle, with a single look Olic spotted Klose and with a perfect low cut back pass, Olic found Klose in the 6 yard box. With a touch the match was effectively over Bayern had taken a 2-0 lead and in doing so ended Schalke and Raul’s thoughts of glory on this day.
On a day which opened with Bayern Munich fans asking many question about the backline. The defense, the back-four in particular were solid and answered the questions asked of them correctly. Jose Sosa who came on for Demichelis in the 70th minute was outstanding and showed real promise. Altintop and Tymoschuk split the time at one of the holding midfield roles with Schweinsteiger and Ottl splitting the other position in favor of Kroos who failed to get any time, inside or on the wing.
In the end it was the defense and Kraft who kept Bayern in the match until Schalke became overly aggressive. Once Schalke had opened themselves to Bayern’s counter attacks, it was Klose, Muller and Olic who made them pay.
Raul did put in a full 90 minutes up top and managed to create one chance but he pulled out of several challenges early in the match. He seemed to struggle to gain a foothold against the more physical Bayern defenders, and was dispossessed on three occasions on the edge of the area, and gave away far too many balls on misguided passes.
Schalke will get better as Raul and his new teammates learn to play together more effectively, but so will Bayern who added a new piece of silverware in what promises to be the biggest Bundesliga season ever.