German Bundesliga: Schalke's Champions League hopes hit by Leverkusen
Last Updated: 21/03/15 8:02pm
Schalke face an uphill struggle to qualify for the Champions League next season after falling to a 1-0 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening.
Karim Bellarabi's goal 10 minutes before half-time was enough to earn Roger Schmidt's men all three points and put their midweek Champions League disappointment behind them, establishing a six-point gap between the two clubs in the race for a top-four finish.
With eight games of the season remaining, Schalke now see their hopes of playing in Europe's elite club competition for a third year in a row dangling by a thread, while Roberto Di Matteo's men must also look over their shoulder to ensure they do not lose a place in the Europa League either.
Di Matteo had branded the game a six-pointer with his side keen to close the gap on Leverkusen.
They started well with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar spurning the first opportunity with Bernd Leno making an instinctive save.
Leverkusen hit back with Stefan Kiessling's header giving Timon Wellenreuther some work to do inside the Schalke goal, and he claimed the ball at the second time of asking.
The rookie goalkeeper had been given Di Matteo's backing despite some recent mistakes, and he did not look too good as Bellarabi put Leverkusen in front in the 35th minute.
He appeared to go to ground too early, making Bellarabi's choice of shot that much easier as the German winger gave Leverkusen the lead.
Kevin-Prince Boateng was sent on for another young Schalke player, Leroy Sane, who did not seem to be carrying an injury.
His introduction did seem to give Schalke a little more life and he went close with a volley which Leno saved with 20 minutes remaining.
He was claiming a penalty shortly after when his shot struck Roberto Hilbert on his arm, but the referee decided it was not an intentional block, much to Boateng and the home fans' disappointment.
Bellarabi wasted a chance to seal victory in stoppage time, but there was no need for a second goal as Leverkusen put some daylight between themselves and their hosts with a win to end a week in which they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid on penalties.