Schalke is returning to the Bundesliga after a year of change on and off the field.
A devastating relegation from Germany’s top flight forced one of the country’s historic behemoths to rebuild its squad. Then came the Ukraine war, and Schalke severed connections with the Russian state gas giant Gazprom, which had provided financial support for some of the club’s greatest victories, leaving the club with an uncertain future.
Schalke’s late push for promotion this season was reflected in the game that confirmed the club’s return to the Bundesliga on Saturday. Schalke were behind 2-0 at halftime to promotion opponent St. Pauli, but rallied to win 3-2!
Uruguayan attacker Rodrigo Zalazar hammered a late winner off the crossbar as Schalke recovered from two goals behind to overcome St. Pauli 3-2 and reclaim their place in the Bundesliga.
Schalke were two points clear at the top of the German second division at the start of the game, and a win would have secured promotion with a game to spare and in front of their home fans.
They appeared doomed when Igor Matanovic scored two early goals to put the visitors up 2-0 after only 17 minutes.
However, the hosts rallied back in the second half, with Simon Terodde converting a penalty and then capitalising on a defensive error to tie the game.
Marcel Beifus of St. Pauli squandered a wonderful opportunity to regain the lead before Zalazar’s spectacular strike capped a remarkable comeback that sent 60,000 Schalke fans into ecstasy!
St Pauli surrendered in the last minutes, when both Beifus and Matanovic were dismissed.
Schalke return to the Bundesliga at the first try after being demoted for the first time in 33 years last season.
“I have huge respect for this group, how they stepped up. Incredible,” said coach Mike Büskens, himself a Schalke great for winning the UEFA Cup as a player in 1997.
“You’re dumped unceremoniously out of the division, you have no team. And then a group develops where everyone is prepared to believe in the others, to give it their all, and I have to say, the guys earned it.”
The defeat officially ends St. Pauli’s promotion aspirations, although the competition for the second automatic promotion berth and the play-off slot remains razor-thin.
On Saturday evening, Hamburg, Darmstadt, and Werder Bremen were all tied for second, third, and fourth place with 57 points apiece.
Bremen can move into second place with a win over Erzgebirge Aue on Sunday, before the final round of games the following weekend.