First half goals from Júnior Caiçara and Nabil Bentaleb set them on their way to victory at the Veltins-Arena, despite the Russian side having started the brighter of the two sides.
Markus Weinzierl’s men saw little need to push on for further goals in the second half, and now look set to top Group I with a six point lead over second-placed Krasnodar.
Changes made after goalless draws
The two sides met just two weeks ago in Russia, with Yevhen Konoplyanka’s goal of the game enough to settle it in favour of the German side, who made it three wins from three as a result.
They fielded a similar side to that game, but made six changes from their goalless draw with rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Saturday. Baba Rahman, Benjamin Stambouli, Dennis Aogo, Caiçara, Konoplyanka and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting all came in, with the latter pair forming a make-shift front two in light of their injury problems up front.
Meanwhile Krasnodar also drew 0-0 at the weekend, against Anzhi Makhachkala, and made three changes from that game, with Kouassi Eboué, Mauricio Pereyra, Joãozinho brought in for Yuri Gazinskiy, Marat Izmailov, Tornike Okriashvili.
Caiçara and Bentaleb strike after bright Krasnodar start
Schalke had been the better side in the original meeting but here they started very much on the back foot. They didn’t do much to test Ralf Fährmann initially, with Sergey Petrov, Pereyra and Joãozinho going wide.
It was through the endeavour of the winger Joãozinho that they should have scored. He chased down a ball on the left that had looked all but lost and crossed it into Ricardo Laborde. Laborde, forced on early due to an injury to Vyacheslav Podberezkin, had his initially shot saved by Fährmann, and he made a meal of the second, sending it well over. A golden chance wasted.
That was a wake-up call for Schalke, who came to life and were ahead only a minute later. Aogo crossed the ball in, Choupo-Moting’s header couldn’t find the target, but instead it found Caiçara who fired in his first Schalke goal.
They weren’t hanging around. Caiçara was involved with the second, finding Konoplyanka, who could have shot but had the sense to send it towards Bentaleb, via a touch from Stanislav Kritsyuk, and the Algerian midfielder’s scoring streak continued as he put it in.
It remained an open game after that, although the better chances fell the way of the Russians. Joãozinho and Laborde combined for the best chance they had before the break, with the former eventually heading to Pereyra, who despite being unmarked disappointingly headed wide.
Schalke shut up shop
The second half was a much more timid affair, with Schalke more than happy to sit on their lead and slow down the game in an attempt to keep Krasnodar quiet.
The closest the visitors came was a shot over the bar from Joãozinho, which came after Konoplyanka’s back-heeled effort had been saved by Kritsyuk.
A free-kick from distance presented a chance for Naldo to add a third goal for Schalke. And he found the target, only to be denied by Kritsyuk.
There were late chances for Schalke, with Alessandro Schöpf bringing out another save from Kritsyuk and Choupo-Moting flagged offside whilst one-on-one with the keeper. But they did what they needed to in the first half, and it was a comfortable victory in the end.
As for Krasnodar, a victory for FC Red Bull Salzburg against OGC Nice in the other game in the group means they are still clear in second place, and favourites to join the Royal Blues in the last 32.