Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored the winner as Schalke began their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 win away at Olympiacos in Group B.
Captain Benedikt Hoewedes headed the visitors into the lead with a little under five minutes of the first half remaining, an opening period that, bar a disallowed Kyriakos Papadopoulos headed goal, was short on incident.
The second half was to prove a much more open affair and was decided in a hectic three-minute period. Djamel Abdoun drew the hosts level with 58 minutes on the clock only to see Huntelaar immediately restore the visitors' advantage.
The Dutchman could have confirmed all three points a minute later but his penalty hit the post. The home side piled on the pressure as the game drew to a close but the visitors held out for an important win.
The hosts welcomed back Giannis Maniatis from injury while captain Vassilis Torossidis returned to the first XI having been rested for the 2-1 win against PAS Giannina over the weekend. For Schalke, Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfan was back in the starting line-up with last season’s Bundesliga’s leading scorer Huntelaar leading the line.
With Arsenal’s billing as Group B favourites re-enforced by a strong start to their season, both Leonardo Jardim and Huub Stevens will have been at pains to emphasise to their players the importance of carrying their own fine domestic starts into Europe.
Despite having reached the semi-final stage of 2010-2011 competition, Schalke are perennial Champions League slow starters having tasted match day one defeat during each of their previous four campaigns but it was the visitors who edged a cagey opening 10 or so minutes.
Despite having more of the ball, the goal of Lars Unnerstall was the first to come under threat when Torossidis cut in from the right, spotted a gaping hole in the left side of the Schalke defence and slipped a ball through for Paulo Machado but his clipped finish was cleared be the retreating Papadopoulos.
Much of the first half was a cagey affair with both sides intent on keeping the other out and neither side willing to over-commit. In possession though, it was the visitors who kept the ball better with their hosts happy to sit back, soak up pressure and then break.
In Rafik Djebbour they had a willing runner up front though, and he probably had the two best chances of the first 30 minutes. First he just could not get the required connection to a deep Torossidis cross before then heading wide from close range at a corner.
With the game ambling towards the interval, referee David Fernández Borbalán inexplicably decided to disallow a Papadopoulos header with a little over five minutes of the half remaining. The former Olympiacos man rose above Balázs Megyeri and cleanly headed into the net but was adjudged to have infringed.
A sense of injustice spurred the visitors on and they were not to be denied their lead. Farfan won a corner, and then delivered an inch perfect cross for Hoewedes to evade his man and head the visitors into a lead that they took to the interval.
The hosts began the second-half with far more intent than in the first and their pressure was rewarded when Abdoun drew them level with 58 minutes gone.
Djebbour latched onto a long ball over the top but was denied a goal scoring opportunity by a last ditch challenge. Abdoun followed up to draw the hosts level from just inside the box.
The visitors responded in kind though a minute later with Huntelaar expertly controlling Lewis Holtby’s through ball on the edge of the box before firing past Megyeri and in off the post to restore his side’s lead.
That was the Dutchman’s first Champions League goal in an away fixture but he immediately passed up the opportunity to double that figure when he hit the post from the penalty spot after Kostas Manolas felled Tranquillo Barnetta in the box.
Having drawn level and then immediately lost that lead, the hosts came forward again but to little avail with the goal of Unnerstall only genuinely threatened once. Second-half substitute Ariel Ibagaza clipping the top of the net with a curler from the edge of the box with just over 20 minutes remaining.
The hosts had more creativity after the introduction of Ibagaza but the visitors held out to record an important win in the quest for qualification the knock-out stages.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jefferson Farfan: In what at times was a subdued match, particularly in the first half, he offered creativity and ran the home defence ragged.
Olympiacos: Megyeri 6, Contreras 6, Holebas 5, Manolas 6, Torosidis 7, Maniatis 6, Modesto 5, Machado 6, Abdoun 6, Djebbour 5, Fuster 5. SUBS: Ibagaza 6, Greco 5, Mitroglou 5.
Schalke: Unnerstall 6, Howedes 7, Papadopoulos 7, Fuchs 7, Matip 6, Holtby 5, Jones 5, Barnetta 6, Neustaedter 6, Farfan 8, Huntelaar 7. SUBS: Afellay 7, Hoeger 6, Draxler 6, Kolasinac.
- Champions League
- Kyriakos Papadopoulos