Christian Gross named an unchanged line-up from that which started the defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt three days prior.
Markus Gisdol also opted for the same starting side that began the game against Hertha BSC on Saturday.
The game was somewhat slow to start as both sides started to feel their way into the clash. The only early opening came through Suat Serdar, as his early drive brought a first save from Timo Horn. FC’s first chance came as Ondrej Duda’s curling free-kick made its way towards the back post. It was well dealt with by an alert Ralf Fährmann, however.
That seemed to open up the tussle as Harit fired at Horn before Mark Uth shot over from close range moments later. A series of FC corners proved dangerous and Rafael Czichos had the ball in the back of the net, only for a foul to be given on Ralf Fährmann. However, he wouldn’t be denied a second time. Czichos headed home from Dominick Drexler’s cross-cum-shot at the back post.
Kingsley Ehizibue had a late chance to add a second after a clever one-two with Drexler, yet his effort was saved by the oncoming Fährmann. Just before the conclusion of the first period, some superb defensive work snuffed out Matthew Hoppe on the break and Timo Horn made an equally important stop to deny Sead Kolasinac’s effort from long range.
Rafael Czichos had to come off at the break for Noah Katterbach, with Jannes Horn moving into the centre of defence. Schalke were fortunate to see Ozan Kabak’s attempted clearance hit his own post and bounce to safety. It was the hosts who would get the second goal of the game. FC failed to clear the ball in the box and Matthew Hoppe was quickest to pounce, slotting home from close range.
Schalke then began to put FC under real pressure. Timo Horn did well to deny Benjamin Stambouli, with Harit and Uth dribbling their way through the middle. Kolasinac’s 70 yard run ended with the defender firing narrowly off target. Suat Serdar almost put through his own net but Fährmann was on hand to claw the ball away from the goal-line.
With the game set to end in a draw, Elvis Rexhbecaj won the ball in the middle of the Schalke half and played in Jan Thielmann. The 18-year-old steadied himself and rocketed the ball past the helpless Fährmann to give FC all three points. Markus Gisdol’s side held on for the win and will travel to TSG Hoffenheim on Sunday to start the Rückrunde. The game kicks off at 18:00 CET.
FC Schalke 04 (4-2-3-1): Fährmann – Becker, Kabak, Nastasic (Mascarell 72’), Kolasinac (Ockzipka 72’) – Stambouli, Serdar – Raman (Boujellab 72’), Uth, Harit – Hoppe.
1. FC Köln (3-5-2): T. Horn – Cestic, Bornauw, Czichos (Katterbach 46’) – Ehizibue (Rexhbecaj 72’), Hector (Özcan 81’), Drexler (Thielmann 88’), Skhiri, J. Horn – Wolf, Duda (Arokodare 88’).
Goals: 0:1, Czichos 31’. 1:1, Hoppe 57’. 1:2, Thielmann 90+3’.
Referee: Daniel Siebert (Berlin).
Booked: Stambouli (49’), J. Horn (89’), Boujellab (89’).
€ 79.99 *