Match Analysis: Maribor 0-1 Schalke 04

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at Schalke 04's 1-0 win away to Maribor to seal their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Schalke 04 have moved into the last 16 of the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Maribor in Slovenia tonight.

Roberto Di Matteo's side went into their final Group G game knowing that they must win and hope group winners Chelsea beat Sporting Lisbon.

The Blues' 3-1 win over the Portuguese side opened the door for Schalke, who obliged as Max Meyer fired the only goal of the game to seal their progression.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at how the Germans sealed their spot in the knockout stages.


Schalke's midfielder Max Meyer (L) celebrates with defender Christian Fuchs (R) after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League Group G football match against NK Maribor on December 10, 2014© Getty Images

Match statistics

MARIBOR
Shots: 10
On target: 3
Possession: 46%
Corners: 3
Fouls: 6

SCHALKE 04
Shots: 12
On target: 4
Possession: 54%
Corners: 5
Fouls: 13

Was the result fair?

Probably, yes. It was a must-win game for both sides and it was always going to come down to who wanted it more, and it was Schalke on the night.

Neither team were brilliant in quite a poor first half, but the Germans were the ones that raised their game after the interval and, once moving ahead on the hour mark, never really looked like being pegged back tonight. Maribor, in truth, did nowhere near enough to win this game and in the end it was a thoroughly deserved three points for the Royal Blues, who move into the last 16 of the Champions League.

Maribor's performance

Ante Simundza's side were probably the better team in the first half and had one or two very good chances to move ahead, but they completely lost that momentum during the break and Schalke dominated from then on. It was a really disappointing second-half performance from the hosts, who had everything to play for because victory would have seen them leapfrog the Germans and snatch a Europa League place, but they did not want it enough.

Simundza perhaps deserves a little bit of criticism for waiting until 82 minutes to send on top goalscorer Luka Zahovic. Maribor were crying out for something different in the final third but the change came far too late to have any effect. Tavares, who led the line, often dropped far too deep to pick up possession, meaning there was nobody centrally to pick out when he received it. This undermined their efforts tonight, but Simundza waited until eight minutes from the end to do anything about it.

They can take a huge amount of heart from what was their first Champions League campaign in 15 years, but this was a disappointing end to it.

Schalke 04's performance

This was never going to be quite as easy as it may have seemed on paper, with coach Roberto Di Matteo forced to contend with a depleted squad, and they certainly struggled to make inroads toward getting the all-important three points in a truly dire first-half performance from an attacking point of view. They fashioned next to nothing, and when they did it was Klaas Jan Huntelaar, their top goalscorer in Europe, who spurned a great chance shortly before the half-time whistle.

Credit to Di Matteo, though, because Schalke would have known the Chelsea score at half time and the Italian sent his troops into the second half fully motivated. They were by far the better team for most of the half until they were rewarded with the opener through Meyer - who Di Matteo sent on for Tranquillo Barnetta. They coasted through the end of the clash without ever looking in danger of conceding, through a combination of stellar defending and a disjointed attacking performance from the hosts. It was the biggest night of Di Matteo's Schalke reign thus far, and they came through it well.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Max Meyer: It has to be Meyer, who was introduced on 56 minutes and had an immediate impact.

The German was a breath of fresh air to a Schalke attack that was rapidly running out of ideas, and Meyer struck the decisive goal just six minutes after coming on to send the Royal Blue into the next round. It is perhaps indicative of the quality elsewhere that a second-half substitute was the stand-out candidate for man of the match, but that was the reality.

Biggest gaffe

We saw the best and worst of Huntelaar in the closing stages of the first half. The Dutchman produced a brilliant turn to evade Mitja Viler, before surging toward goal. Centre-back Arghus slipped to allow him a free shot at Jasmin Handanovic, but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was free to his right and he took on the shot instead of passing to his teammate. It proved a costly decision as Huntelaar's shot flew well over the bar.

As a veteran striker he will know full well that there are times to be selfish, but there was far too much at stake here tonight to put himself ahead of the team. He should have passed, but fortunately for him Meyer got him off the hook.

Referee performance

Poland's Szymon Marciniak had a standard game with no major talking points. It is actually his assistants that deserve most praise after Huntelaar's second-half shot hit the post and rolled across the length of the goal line, before being cleared. Schalke players were adamant that it had crossed the line but replays showed that it did not.

What next?

Maribor: Simundza's side will now enjoy a two-month winter break and resume league duties in February with a trip to Olimpija Ljubljana.

Schalke 04: Schalke, meanwhile, host Cologne in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday afternoon.

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