Guido Burgstaller was all Schalke 04 needed in the end to beat VfL Wolfsburg to secure a place in the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal.
The hosts caught the Wolves on the counter in the tenth minute, with Burgstaller finishing off the move by beating Wolfsburg goalkeeper Koen Casteels.
It was a nervy affair after that, with Yunus Malli hitting the bar and Daniel Didavi having a header cleared off the line, but die Knappen hung on to progress.
Burgstaller gives Schalke an early lead
For the fourth and final tie quarter-final tie of the week, both sides made plenty of changes from the weekend games in the Bundesliga. Alessandro Schöpf, Leon Goretzka, Marko Pjaca and Burgstaller came in for Schalke, whilst Wolfsburg handed a debut to Admir Mehmedi, following his move from Bayer Leverkusen, whilst Sebastian Jung and Yannick Gerhardt also came in.
Wolfsburg started brightly, yet in the tenth minute they were caught on the counter to devastating effect. Pjaca played the ball through to Burgstaller who rushed forward. Bruma tried to block his path in the box, and it seemed he had taken too long on the ball. Nevertheless, he found the space to place the ball past Casteels to put his side ahead.
The home side began to tear into the Wolfsburg defence after that. Pjaca was lively and went wide with two shots – one had Casteels beaten from outside the box, whilst he failed to make a full connection with the second on. A cross from Burgstaller meanwhile had too much for Goretzka to get to, with his cross towards Pjaca then intercepted by goalkeeper Casteels.
The Wolves regained composure and had Schalke worried for a short while. A free-kick taken by Mehmedi was tricky for Ralf Fährmann but he was able to get a hand to it to keep it out. From Maximilian Arnold’s subsequent corner, Naldo headed the ball out of the box only to find Yunus Malli. He let leash, looking to catch Fährmann out of his goal, the ball rattling the bar and Schalke lucky it bounced on the right side of the line.
The final 20 minutes of the half were less eventful, with Arnold striking well wide and Max Meyer having a shot saved by Casteels, with Schalke having remained on top and in control going into half-time.
Schalke survive a tense second half
Schalke would have to soak up a lot more Wolfsburg pressure in the second half. Malli had an early shot after being found by Mehmedi, although his shot was straight at Fährmann. Mehmedi was also the supplier for a shot from Arnold, which was blocked off the arm of Matija Nastasic. There were appeals for a penalty, but Nastasic had his back to the ball and there was clearly no intent.
Domenico Tedesco’s side have been guilty of throwing away leads after sitting back one goal up, whilst Wolfsburg are developing a reputation for late equalising goals as well – as Divock Origi did in stoppage time here in the league in October. Nevertheless Schalke were struggling to be as creative as in the early stages of the match. One good attack saw Goretzka find Burgstaller, but rather than go for goal he lost the ball looking for a sideways pass.
Five minutes before the end, Wolfsburg came close to catching Schalke out. Arnold’s free-kick caused confusion in the Schalke box, with the ball eventually headed towards goal by substitute Didavi, only for Goretzka to head clear on the line. Malli also had a miscued shot saved by Fahrmann.
Pjaca, before being taken off for debutant Cedric Teuchert, and Amine Harit had been bright sparks for Schalke as they to improve on their score, but in the end they were left to grind out the win in four added minutes. One last free-kick from Mehmedi was claimed by Fährmann though and his side are now one game from the Berlin final.
Eagles swoop on disappointing Mainz
Earlier in the evening, last year’s beaten finalists Eintracht Frankfurt booked the third semi-final berth with a comfortable victory over local rivals 1. FSV Mainz 05.
Ante Rebic gave them an early lead, with Marius Wolf taking advantage of a mistake from the returning René Adler to set him up for an easy tap in. It then got worse for the visitors as Alexander Hack put Sebastian Haller’s cross into his own net, with Adler already moving the other way.
In the second half the Eagles piled on the misery, as Omar Mascarell exposed confusion between Danny Latza and Hack to steal possession before placing the ball over Adler. Mainz would then finish the game with ten men after Latza was sent off for an awful challenge on Marco Fabián.
Frankfurt join Schalke, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen in April’s semi-finals, with the draw taking place on Sunday.