Schalke draw at home to PAOK in Champions League qualifier | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 21.08.2013
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Schalke draw at home to PAOK in Champions League qualifier

A late change of opponents for Schalke in the Champions League qualifier saw a familiar face looking on from the opposition dugout. Greek opponents PAOK proved a tough nut to crack, coming away with a 1-1 draw.

It was surely a welcome surprise for former Schalke manager Huub Stevens to be managing the Greek side pitted against his old club.

Thanks to the disqualification of Ukranian side Metalist Kharkiv over match-fixing, PAOK had a lifeline into Europe's top club competition - and nothing to lose.

Schalke meanwhile were looking to bounce back from a 4-0 weekend drubbing at the hands of Wolfsburg and just one point from their first two Bundesliga games.

The Germans looked dominant early on, composed both at the back and in midfield. It was upfront where they seemed to come unstuck, seemingly toothless when it came to the final pass. The Greeks defended deep, hitting on the break.

Jefferson Farfan of Schalke (4th L) celebrates the first goal with Adam Szalai (L), Joel Matip (2nd L), Marco Hoeger (3rd L), Benedikt Hoewedes (2nd R) and Max Meyer (R) of Schalke during the UEFA Champions League Play-off first leg match between FC Schalke 04 and PAOK Saloniki (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Farfan (17) slotted home in almost nonchalant fashion

An on-target free kick from Christian Fuchs was the closest the Bundesliga side came until finally working the ball into the net.

Quick-thinking in the box

Much of the Schalke attack went down the right-hand side with Marco Höger pushing up and forming a triangle with Atsuto Uchida and Jefferson Farfan. When the ball was fed to Adam Szalai from the right, the Hungarian pounced. Szalai's first shot was blocked by Liam Lawrence, but the summer signing had the presence of mind to push the ball across to Farfan to his right.

With composure that almost resembled complacency at first, the Peruvian rolled his opportunity into the far side of the goal. Spanish keeper Jacobo almost seemed to think it was going wide as Schalke nudged ahead.

Schalke, until now having had two-thirds of the possession, looked as though they might manage a two-goal cushion. Maximilian Meyer and Julian Draxler also found PAOK wanting in the center, but were not able to effectively break down the defense.

However, there was a glimpse of what was really to come when PAOK poured forward shortly before the break; Dimitrios Salpingidis blocked on the goal line, Lucas firing wildly over the crossbar.

The second half proved less than inspiring for Schalke as PAOK began to push the Germans harder. Apart from a close effort by Lucas, though, Schalke keeper Timo Hildebrand wasn't too badly troubled.

Hildebrand helpless

When the equalizer did arrive for the Greeks on 73 minutes, Hildebrand probably didn't see it coming.

Saloniki's and former coach of Schalke Huub Stevens is welcomed by Schalke's sporting director Horst Heldt (R) Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa

It was a reunion for Stevens, seated, and Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt

Slovakian Miroslav Stoch broke a drought with his first goal since April, being gifted time and space to cut in from the left outside the box - curling a stunner into the far post as Hildebrand dived, arriving too late.

As PAOK grew stronger, Schalke's dominance faded, despite maintaining better possession. To make matters worse, the Gelsenkirchen side picked up an unwanted injury when goalscorer Farfan was brought down and stretchered away.

It capped a frustrating night for the Royal Blues, whose European record at home of late shows room for improvement. Schalke, who won only one of their four home fixtures in their 2012 to 2013 Champions League campaign, will be hoping they can fare better away.

"We can be very satisfied with the performance," said Schalke coach Jens Keller. "We played an outstanding first half. The result is not the best, but we could always score one or two away from home."

Stevens said his old club Schalke remained the favorites. "We didn’t play well on the wings in the first half, which is something that we cleared up at half time," said Stevens. "In the second half Schalke weren’t so dangerous. We were more stable and we profited from that."

Schalke take on PAOK in the second leg next Tuesday, with the match to be played behind closed doors because of crowd disturbances.