Schalke produced their best performance of the season to brush a hapless Werder Bremen aside.
Felix Magath had underlined the importance of scoring the first goal and die Knappen deservedly took the lead halfway through the first half thanks to a stroke of luck. Jefferson Farfan's corner was met by Christoph Metzelder's bullet header, which found the back of the net via the crossbar and Tim Wiese's elbow.
Schalke have slowly been growing in confidence as the season has progressed and they managed a second goal in the dying seconds of the first half. Edu's thunderous free-kick was beaten away by Wiese but Raul, who had teed up the Brazilian, showed tremendous desire and anticipation to react the quickest and stroke the ball into the net.
After the break, the Schalker dominance continued and Raul got his second brace in three games. Farfan broke down the right, leaving Petri Pasanen for dead before his ball bounced off an unsuspecting Klaas-Jan Huntelaar leaving the Spaniard to volley home into the net on his less-favored right peg.
The Veltins-Arena had over 60,000 spectators for the 121st consecutive home game and all of them will remember Raul's hat-trick goal for years to come. In a repeat of his glorious strike in the pre-season Liga!total Cup, he exquisitely lifted the ball right-footed over a stranded Wiese to send the home fans into raptures. He could have done no more to earn his standing ovation when replaced late on by his compatriot Jose Manuel Jurado.
Hugo Almeida's early header into the hands of Manuel Neuer while unmarked was as good as it got for the injury-ravaged and hopeless visitors, whose defense was an embarrassment, even by their standards. Indeed, Schalke could have had a tennis, if not a cricket score as Huntelaar and Farfan missed gilt-edged opportunities, as the superior desire and quality of the home side left long-serving Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf wishing the ground would open up and swallow him.
However, while everyone in front of him wilted, Wiese stood up and made a string of super saves to spare Bremen from yet further humiliation. A hamstring injury to Wesley and a Philipp Bargfrede sending off rubbed more salt into the deep Bremen wounds.
Schalke travel to Kaiserslautern next weekend while Werder Bremen also host promoted opposition in the form of St Pauli.
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