The Dutchman scored with his head in either half to send the home side into the final automatic Champions League spot.Schalke overcame Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 at the Veltins Arena to move up to third in the Bundesliga standings.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored with a header in either half to claim a deserved three points for the home side, which leapfrogs Gladbach into the final automatic Champions League qualifying place.
Schalke fashioned the first opening of the contest 10 minutes in through Julian Draxler’s charge down the left. He squared to Lewis Holtby, who immediately flashed an effort just wide.
The home side continued to look dangerous on the break, and found itself a goal to the good after 18 minutes. Christian Fuchs was fed wide left on the overlap, and floated in a teasing cross that was headed home by the unmarked Huntelaar.
Moments later, Holtby went close from range again when his stinging half-volley from 20 yards out flew inches from the top corner.
It was one-way traffic for the remainder of the half, as Schalke continued to find space in and around the Leverkusen backline. However, the team just could not find the finishing touch to its work in the attacking third, as the half ended with the visiting side hanging on for dear life.
Leverkusen fired a warning shot coming out of the interval, with Simon Rolfes calling Timo Hildebrand into action with a testing effort from distance.
Schalke did not take long to get back into stride though, and Bernd Leno had to be alert to block a close range poke by Huntelaar, before Raul headed a Fuchs cross just over as the match crossed the hour mark.
The home side seemed unable to kill of the game, and was almost made to pay after Gonzalo Castro squared to an unmarked Andre Schurrle inside the area, but his attempt was completely mis-hit and sent well off target.
Leno was called into action once more to deny Schalke in the 70th minute. The Leverkusen keeper did well to thwart Raul from point blank range before batting away Huntelaar’s drive from the edge of the area, with Draxler firing the rebound over the bar.
Despite the slender advantage, the home side seemed comfortable as the match neared its conclusion, and Huntelaar rounded off his brace in the 86th minute to put any lingering concerns to rest. Jefferson Farfan manufactured an inch of space on the right byline, and floated in a cross that was nodded home coolly by the Dutch striker.
With Hoffenheim’s 2-1 comeback win away to Gladbach earlier on Saturday, Schalke now occupies third place in the Bundesliga with 53 points, and is six points behind league leader Dortmund. Leverkusen stays fifth with 40 points.Follow GOAL.COM USA on