Schalke breezed passed Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena on Sunday afternoon, as Domenico Tedesco's side picked up a crucial 2-0 Bundesliga win in the race for Champions League qualification.
The away side took the lead early on in the first half, as Guido Burgstaller powered home a drive after a sensational piece of skill on the edge of the area. Things went from bad to worse for Leverkusen in the first half, as Dominik Kohr was given a second yellow card for a rash challenge.
A moment of controversy saw Schalke assure their win late on, as the referee awarded them a penalty despite the VAR footage appearing to show Leverkusen defender Panagiotis Retsos getting a touch on the ball. Nabil Bentaleb fired the penalty into the net to seal the three points.
The game got off to a slow-paced start, as both sides looked to win the early battle for possession and dictate the shape of the play. Leverkusen had the first chance of the game in the fourth minute, as Jamaican sensation Leon Bailey sent a delicious ball through to marauding left-back Wendell - who saw his low, driven shot deflected just wide of goal.
Schalke took the lead in emphatic style in the tenth minute. Daniel Caligiuri fired a long ball forward to Burgstaller, who dinked the ball over Retsos on the left wing, before driving inside the area and smashing a shot beyond Bernd Leno into the bottom corner of the net.
Leverkusen looked to hit straight back, with Bailey being used as their main outlet for launching attacking moves at their opponents. The 20-year-old came close to equalising midway through the first half, a corner was punched clear by Schalke stopper Ralf Fährmann, only as far as Bailey, who smashed a venomous half-volley inches wide of the top corner.
Schalke almost doubled their lead in the 28th minute, as Caligiuri's free-kick found Leon Goretzka free in the area, which the German international flicked towards goal with a deft header. Leno was at the rescue for his side, tipping the effort wide of goal. Schalke began to frustrate their opponents, keeping possession and playing the ball smartly across their backline.
Leverkusen then suffered a major setback, as their midfielder Kohr picked up his second booking in six minutes and was sent off, after a wild challenge on Schalke forward Breel Embolo. The game began to get scrappy, as both sides hurled themselves into fierce challenges with gusto.
The hosts started the second half brightly, as they looked to overturn their opposition despite being down to ten men. Kai Havertz gave his side the first chance of the second half, as the Leverkusen man's thumped effort was comfortably saved by Fährmann. Schalke almost scored moments later, as Naldo's header flashed just wide of goal from a corner.
Midway through the second half Leverkusen missed a glorious opportunity to draw level, as Lucas Alario span away from his marker in the penalty area, only to hit his shot directly at the goalkeeper. The home side began to grow in confidence, as their fans roared them on towards goal as they desperately chased an equaliser.
As the game ticked into the final ten minutes, Naldo ripped a vicious free-kick just over the cross-bar, as Schalke look to put the game beyond their opposition. In the 82nd minute, Amine Harit burst through on goal before squaring the ball to Embolo, whose close-range effort was stunningly saved by a sprawling Leno.
As the game drew to a close, a shocking mistake by Retsos allowed Embolo to charge through on goal. The Greek defender brought down the powerful striker in the box and a penalty was awarded, before the decision was referred to a VAR decision. Despite the replays appearing to show Retsos making contact with the ball, the penalty decision was upheld.
Substitute Bentaleb powered in the penalty, securing the three points for Tedesco's plucky side. Leverkusen are certain to feel aggrieved by the referee's interpretation of the VAR footage, as the decision prevented them from having a lifeline heading into the final minutes of the game. Schalke cruised to victory, moving to third in the Bundesliga table.