APOEL Nicosia 0-3 Schalke 04: Royal Blues cruise to comfortable win
Image credit: kicker

Goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Joel Matip were enough to see off the challenge of APOEL Nicosia on Thursday evening.

Both teams made just one change from their weekend games, with Schalke's André Breitenreiter calling on Leroy Sané to replace Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. For APOEL it was a simple personnel alteration, as Konstantinos Markidis replaced Konstantinos Charalambides on the wing.

Schalke turn things around early on

It was an extremely open start to the game, with neither side giving much thought to defending. APOEL looked dangerous going forward and Schalke equally worrying at the back but the hosts were unable to take advantage, with Markidis' final ball unable to find a team-mate. Johannes Geis went closest for the Royal Blues after his cross-cum-shot fell just wide.

Schalke were beginning to push forward more and more and Geis' initial effort was a warning of what was to come. The former-Mainz man let fly from 35 yards and rattled the bar of Boy Waterman, who was surprised that he had even tried to score from such a distance. Maximilian Meyer had a strong shot saved by the Dutch stopper moments later as the visitors began to turn the screw.

Quick double from Geis and Huntelaar

That pressure eventually paid off midway through the half, and unsurprisingly Geis was involved. His free-kick was whipped in with great pace and had Waterman flying out of his goal to try and clear. He completely misjudged the flight of the delivery and Joel Matip was there to flick into an empty goal and give Schalke the lead they deserved.

It would get even better for the Gelsenkirchen side soon after, thanks to a stunning strike from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The forward took aim from all of 30 yards and his low, skidding shot bounced multiple times before finding the bottom corner. The greasy surface seemed to help the ball find the back of the net and almost kill the game off in the run up to half-time.

APOEL steady themselves

The hosts mounted a small fight-back late on and had three good chances to get on the scoreboard. A free-kick went just wide from the boot of Tomás De Vincenti and he headed over moments later from a corner. The best opportunity fell to Pieros Sotiriou but his shot was brilliantly stopped by the steady Ralf Fährmann.

Schalke picked up where they left off and could have made it four in the first few minutes after the break. Junior Aogo's curled a free-kick just past the post moments before Sané's shot rippled the side-netting. The second half had slowed down however, with the visitors now happy to dominate the possession, especially with Johannes Geis coming off.

Huntelaar seals the deal

With 20 minutes left, Breitenreiter's men were able to grab a third. A counter attack had left APOEL open at the back and Max Meyer began to march ominously towards their defence. Huntelaar was wide open and the attacking midfielder played the ball into his pass, as the Dutchman hammered home into the opposite corner to put the game beyond any doubt and score his second of the evening.

De Vincenti was sent -off by Tony Chapron not long after but it had little effect on the match. The clock wound down and the victory was confirmed, giving the Bundesliga side the perfect start to their Europa League campaign. APOEL, however, have work to do if they want to advance to the next rounds going on this showing.