It has been a hellish six months for Sepp van den Berg as he combats ongoing injuries, but he marked his return for Schalke with a crucial goal.
Van den Berg initially suffered an ankle ligament injury in only his fourth game on loan with Schalke in October, undergoing surgery that would rule him out until 2023.
A series of setbacks limited him to just one appearance for the club’s reserves in the meantime – scoring an own goal in a 2-2 draw with FC Duren in March.
But after returning to the bench for last weekend’s 4-0 loss at SC Freiburg, he was finally back on the pitch in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
It came as a substitute, with Van den Berg replacing Henning Matriciani with 77 minutes on the clock and his side trailing 1-0 at home to Werder Bremen.
Within four minutes of his introduction, the Dutch defender had notched his first goal for the club and set Schalke on course for a 2-1 comeback.
A long throw from Marcin Kaminski was knocked down in the box by Sebastian Polter, finding Van den Berg on the edge of the box for a sweeping finish.
It was the 21-year-old’s first goal since his effort in a 6-0 win over Gibraltar under-21s in June, and at club level his first since netting two in four days for Preston in August 2021.
Dominick Drexler capped Schalke’s win in the second minute of stoppage time, with the three points vital as they look to avoid relegation.
21 – Sepp van den Berg is the youngest Dutchman to ever find the net for @s04 in the Bundesliga (21 years and 130 days). Spring. pic.twitter.com/Uo7K6CKT0X
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) April 29, 2023
Schalke are currently in the bottom two, which would see them relegated to 2.Bundesliga, but they are now just one point off VfL Bochum and VfB Stuttgart above them.
They are also only two points behind Hoffenheim in 14th and four behind Augsburg in 13th, with four more games to play.
Van den Berg will be hoping to build up his minutes in those remaining games, and a vital goal on Saturday could help him force his way into manager Thomas Reis’ plans.
They are tough fixtures, though, with all four opponents in the top half, starting with a trip to Mainz and then clashes with Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig.