Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Huntelaar stamps his class with Schalke to continue Leverkusen’s skid

Huntelaar stamps his class with Schalke to continue Leverkusen’s skid
by rick olivares

Sometimes it’s about being at the right place at the right time.

While some people may say that Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s short stint with Real Madrid and AC Milan may be a bust one can say too, that it was finding the right fit for the Dutch striker.

In Huntelaar’s few months at the Estadio Santiago de Bernabeu, the team had Ruud van Nistelrooy, Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Gonzalez, and Javier Saviola among other playing up front. Huntelaar did play 20 matches for Juande Ramos where he netted eight goals. Knowing that Los Merengues were bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo after the season, the Dutchman opted to go to AC Milan.

Even as Milan once more moved to third place in Serie A, Huntelaar had a hard time with the Rossoneri. He played the same number of matches as Alexander Pato (30) but scored fewer goals – 14:7. Italian Marco Boriello and Ronaldinho led the way with 15 goals each for manager Leonardo who was in his fifth year with the club.

Huntelaar’s inability to establish himself with the starting XI doomed him to the bench when Milan brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And that necessitated a move to the Bundesliga, his fourth European major league after the Dutch Eredivisie, the Spanish La Liga, and the Italian Serie A.

Now with Schalke 04, with van Nistelrooy is on his way out, Huntelaar has found the opportunity to show his stuff and the world that there is room for two great Dutch strikers. We all know that Rob van Persie has grabbed the spotlight in the English Premier League in terms of scoring when Ronaldo departed for Madrid. This season, van Persie, has 33 goals in all competitions for the Gunners.

Huntelaar is no slouch as he has racked up 25 goals for Schalke in all competitions this year (22 in the Bundesliga).

Playing atop Konigsblauen’s 4-2-3-1 formation, the Dutchman was the beneficiary of a pair of crosses that he headed home past Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno who was betrayed by his defense who were caught watching Huntelaar and not marking him at all.

Huntelaar scored in the first half when he headed in a cross from left back Christian Fuchs. With Leverkusen playing better in the second half, Schalke doubled their lead in the dying minutes when the hard working but rapidly tiring Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfan delivered a cross – this time from the right – that Huntelaar in a carbon copy of his first goal, snapped once more past Leno.

Fuchs and Farfan were devastating from the wings. Their work rate and speed kept the Leverkusen defenders on their heels all match long.

Leverkusen could not properly feed striker Stefan Kiessing who is the club’s leading scorers with nine goals so far. Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok is second with seven. The scoring drought is galling as despite being in fifth place, Leverkusen has only a plus three in goal difference. They did have several decent chances to score in the second half but the final touch was definitely wanting.

In the meantime, Schalke looked menacing on the counter with strong wing play. Their wasted far too many chances in the middle as central mid Lewis Holtby botched a couple of shots while Raul was stopped either by Leno or by poor finishing.

Konigsblauen head coach Huub Stevens did not looked pleased as his side, needing the three points and more goals to make up the chasm between his side and Dortmund and Bayern Munich that are leading the way respectively in the standings. The 2-0 win gave Schalke a 17-2-8 record good for solo third in the Bundesliga but Dortmund is nine points clear of them (Munich is five off).

Schalke would love nothing more than to keep Huntelaar in his royal blues (ditto with Raul for at least one more year). And I guess, good things come to those who wait. In Huntelaar’s case, it’s being at the right club at the right time.

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