The Dutch forward struck in the second half to cancel out Darida's fine opener for the Czech outfit and restore parity for the second leg in Gelsenkirchen.Schalke escaped from the Doosan Arena with a 1-1 draw against Viktoria Plzen in their Europa League Round of 32 first-leg matchup.
Vladimir Darida gave the home side the lead with a fine volleyed effort in the first half, but Klass Jan Huntelaar was able to pop up with a poacher's effort with quarter of an hour to go to give the German outfit a vital away goal to defend for the second leg in a week's time.
Plzen set out is stall to contain Schalke from the off, showing committed play in defense while always harboring a threat on the counterattack.
Nonetheless, it was the visitors who fashioned the first opportunities of the contest through Huntelaar, who dragged a low shot wide before firing a volley into Marek Cech’s arms from inside the area.
However, those openings were half chances at best, and it was the home side which opened the scoring with a goal of some quality. Pavel Horvath chipped a ball in towards the edge of the area, and Darida was left completely unmarked to smash his volley home.
That goal was the cue for Plzen to tighten things up, as the club defended in two banks of four to prevent the visitors from creating much in the way of goalmouth action.
The half ended with a deeply frustrated Schalke outfit unable to open the stubborn defense of the hosts.
Plzen went close again after the restart, first Milan Petrzela forcing Lars Unnerstall to parry before Marek Bakos fired just wide from a great position as the clock passed the hour mark.
Huub Stevens reacted soon after, bringing on Jefferson Farfan and Ciprian Marcia for Chinedu Obasi and Raul, respectively. With a quarter of an hour to go, the substitutes repaid their summons by playing a role in the equaliser.
Farfan was afforded an inch of space and sent the ball into the area, which touched off Marcia and fell kindly to Huntelaar, who needed no second invitation to stroke the ball home.
The German outfit increased the pressure after the leveler, but Plzen held firm to deny then a further away goal. Both sides will square off again in the second leg in one week’s time at the Veltins Arena in Germany.