Raul Gonzalez scored twice in a sparking display as Schalke 04 defeated Hannover 96 3-0 to consolidate their hold on third place in the Bundesliga on Sunday, while Bayer 04 Leverkusen drew 1-1 at Hamburg SV.
Raul headed Jefferson Farfan’s cross in off the left post in the sixth minute, giving Schalke a lift after Thursday’s Europa League elimination by Athletic Bilbao.
The 34-year-old former Real Madrid star scored a delectable second in the 47th minute, accepting Farfan’s return pass on his chest, holding off a defender and then beating goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler by playing the ball with his left foot and stroking it inside the post with his right.
Farfan unselfishly crossed to give Klaas-Jan Huntelaar an easy finish for his 24th goal of the season in the 63rd.
“Schalke were simply better,” said Hannover coach Mirko Slomka, whose side was knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday by Atletico Madrid. “We had, truth be told, no chance.”
Farfan, who hit the post in the first half after setting up a chance for Julian Draxler, was a constant menace down the right for the home side.
Fans had been chanting Raul’s name after another show of skill to elude two Hannover defenders and the Spaniard, who is yet to respond to Schalke’s offer of a one-year contract extension, came off to a standing ovation in the 71st.
“He’s a family man, so I can imagine if he gets an offer of two years somewhere else, he may take it,” Schalke coach Huub Stevens said. “On the other hand, I hope he stays here another year.”
Schalke are six points behind Bayern Munich and five ahead of Borussia Moenchengladbach with five games to play. Hannover dropped three places to eighth.
One week after Leverkusen fired Robin Dutt following five defeats in all competitions, the side’s new coaching team of Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski restored Michael Ballack to the starting lineup in Hamburg.
However, the former Germany captain failed to provide any real spark on his first start since Jan. 22.
“I didn’t think I’d be back in the team after four days’ training,” said Ballack, whose season has been disrupted by injury.
Mladen Petric took the lead from the penalty spot in the 40th, after Gonzalo Castro was adjudged to have handled the ball.
Hamburg goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny denied Andre Schuerrle’s effort in the 54th, but the Leverkusen forward scored in comical fashion from the resulting corner.
Robert Tesche cleared Stefan Kiessling’s header off the line, only for the rebound to hit Hamburg captain Heiko Westermann’s head and crash off the crossbar, with Schuerrle reacting first to head into the empty net.
“We played a good game, but were begging for Leverkusen to equalize,” Westermann said.
Hamburg, the only team to have played continuously in the Bundesliga since its formation in 1963, climbed to 14th, two points above the danger zone, while Leverkusen moved into sixth.