A 30-metre rocket from Naldo fired Schalke to a 2-0 victory over arch rivals Borussia Dortmund on Sunday and strengthened their grip on second place in the Bundesliga.
Naldo’s superb strike sent the blue half of the Ruhr region into raptures as Schalke recorded their first win over Dortmund since September 2014.
The Brazilian, who scored a last-minute equaliser in Schalke’s dramatic 4-4 draw with Dortmund earlier in the season, was the hero again on Sunday as he secured three points for his side late in the second half.
“To win the derby towards the end of the season is a real highlight,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel told Sky. “It was a deserved victory.”
Always a fiercely contested derby, there was even more at stake than usual in Sunday’s game, with just one point separating second-placed Schalke from third-placed Dortmund before kickoff.
Victory saw Schalke pull four points clear of third place, while Dortmund drop to fourth.
Schalke came close after just five minutes, Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki diving at full stretch to turn Alessandro Schoepf’s shot around the post.
At the other end, Marco Reus forced a flying save from Ralf Faehrmann as his long range free kick fizzed towards the top corner.
“We need to look at what went wrong in the first 45 to 60 minutes today,” Reus told Sky. “We didn’t play well in that period.”
The home side had the better of the first half, however, and could have taken the lead on the stroke of halftime when Yevhen Konoplyanka curled a low shot around the far post.
Konoplyanka had better luck five minutes after the break as he fired Schalke in front. Set free by Daniel Caligiuri on the counter-attack, the Ukrainian smashed a powerful shot past Burki to give his side a well deserved lead.
Dortmund rallied in the last 20 minutes, with chances falling to Christian Pulisic and Reus.
Yet with eight minutes to play, Schalke were awarded a free kick around 30 metres from goal. Caligiuri rolled the ball to Naldo, who blasted it into the bottom corner to secure victory.
Dortmund’s misery was compounded in stoppage time, when striker Michy Batshuayi was carried off on a stretcher after clashing with Benjamin Stambouli.
RB Leipzig could close to within two points of Dortmund in the race for the final Champions League spot in Germany with a victory at Werder Bremen later on Sunday.