BERLIN – Schalke climbed from sixth to third in the Bundesliga on Sunday as Nabil Bentaleb scored on his comeback to seal their 2-0 victory at 10-man Bayer Leverkusen.
It was a sweet return for the ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, who was dropped from Schalke’s squad a fortnight ago and told to improve his attitude.
Bentaleb’s penalty just before the final whistle capped a deserved win for Schalke who had taken the lead with just 11 minutes gone in Leverkusen.
When Daniel Caligiuri found Guido Burgstaller with pass from 40 metres, the Austrian striker superbly flicked the ball over a defender and hit the bottom left corner of the net from 15 metres.
Leverkusen’s fortunes further dipped when defensive midfielder Dominik Kohr was sent off for a second yellow card after just 38 minutes.
Schalke made the numerical advantage count late on, and only a reflex save by Germany goalkeeper Bernd Leno denied Swiss striker Breel Embolo.
Embolo broke clear on 83 minutes and floated his shot over Leno, but the Bayer keeper got a glove to the ball and steered it over the crossbar.
Schalke then sealed the win thanks to a Leverkusen mistake.
When 19-year-old Greece defender Panagiotis Retsos stumbled with the ball at his feet, Embolo snatched possession and sprinted away.
Retsos’s sliding tackle from behind sent him tumbling in the area and the Leverkusen teenager was lucky to only be shown a yellow card.
Referee Daniel Siebert however pointed to the spot and Bentaleb, a second-half replacement, drilled home the penalty on 89 minutes.
Schalke are level with second-placed Borussia Dortmund on 40 points – a massive 20 behind runaway league leaders Bayern Munich.
The Bavarian giants were held to a goalless draw at home to Hertha Berlin on Saturday, the first time they have failed to score a league goal at the Allianz Arena since May 2015.
Despite out-shooting Hertha 19-5 – Bayern could not break through, which cost them two possible records.
Top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, who had 10 shots on goal, missed the out-right record of scoring in 12 consecutive home league games.
Jupp Heynckes also missed the chance to become the first Bayern coach to claim 15 straight wins in all competitions.