Both Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach managed to advance to the Round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League this week.
After having defeated PAOK Thessaloniki 3-0 in Greece last week, there was little doubt that Schalke’s Royal Blues would finish the job in front of their home supporters.
When Alessandro Schöpf gave the German team the lead about halfway through the first half, PAOK knew that they needed four unanswered goals to advance.
But even after they equalized 1-1 on the evening, through a Matija Nastasic own goal, just two minutes later, there was clearly still no realistic way back.
Both teams had good opportunities to score again after that, but there were no further goals, thus Schalke advanced easily.
There are many adjectives that could be used to describe Gladbach’s victory over Italian team Fiorentina, but” easy” is not one of them.
After having lost the first leg 1-0 at home, they were eager to put things right in the away leg.
The Bundesliga team was the more active of the two early on, but they could not reward themselves for they efforts; much like in the entire first leg.
Instead, Fiorentina took the lead though Nikola Kalinic after fifteen minutes.
When Gladbach seemed to have recovered from the shock of falling behind again, their center back Jannik Vestergaard, slipped while in possession of the ball, making it possible for Borja Valero to score the second, 2-0 on the night for the Italian club.
That goal seemed like it would end the match as a contest. But the referee awarded the visitors a soft penalty just before halftime, which Lars Stindl calmly converted. Thus, Gladbach went into the locker room with a glimmer of hope.
In the second half, the Germans came out flying. Stindl scored two more times and Andreas Christensen even made it 4-2 at the hour mark, which was the final score.
Friday’s Round of 16 draw unfortunately put Schalke up against Gladbach, with the Royal Blues hosting the first leg. But at least that ensures that one Bundesliga team will reach the Europa League quarterfinals.