Schalke 1-1 PAOK: Stoch scores vital away goal for Stevens' side
The former Chelsea man struck in the last 20 minutes to give the Greek giants a glimmer of hope of reaching the group stage at the expense of S04
By David Lynch
PAOK took control of their Champions League play-off against Schalke on Wednesday, grabbing an away goal in a 1-1 draw in Germany.
Jefferson Farfan had given the hosts the lead before the end of a first half they dominated, but a fabulous effort from Miroslav Stoch in the second period handed PAOK an equaliser they fully deserved for a disciplined defensive performance at the Veltins-Arena.
|Bet:||Returns:||PAOK £22.00||Draw £34.00||AZ £32.00|
|Bet:||Returns:||PAOK £22.50||Draw £32.50||AZ £31.00|
|Bet:||Returns:||PAOK £21.50||Draw £32.50||AZ £34.00|
|Bet:||Returns:||PAOK £20.50||Draw £32.50||AZ £34.00|
|Bet:||Returns:||PAOK £22.00||Draw £33.00||AZ £32.00|
The result represented a satisfying return to Schalke for PAOK coach Huub Stevens, who was sacked by the Bundesliga club last December, but the occasion was marred by crowd trouble late on, with police forced to intervene due to fighting among the home supporters.
Following his side's 4-0 humbling at the hands of Wolfsburg on Saturday, Schalke boss Jens Keller made three changes. Having suffered a knee injury in that fixture, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar dropped out for Adam Szalai, while 17-year-old midfielder Max Meyer replaced Christian Clemens in midfield.
PAOK, meanwhile, also made three changes from their league victory over Xanthi, with experienced midfielder Kostas Katsouranis reintroduced to the Greek outfit's line-up.
Despite the high stakes involved, the opening moments of the match saw little caution from both sides as PAOK threw in several dangerous crosses and Schalke threatened on the counter-attack in reply. One such break almost ended in Schalke opening the scoring, as Atsuto Uchida was cynically pulled down before some desperate defending saw PAOK scramble the resultant free-kick away.
The hosts' share of possession began to grow after that chance and, though several promising situations broke down thanks to miscued final passes, they took a deserved lead with half an hour gone.
Christian Fuchs' first effort in the box was well blocked but Szalai showed great composure to lay-off Farfan from the rebound, with the Peruvian passing the ball in off the post to make it 1-0. PAOK goalkeeper Jacobo raised his arms as Farfan's shot slid past him - seemingly in the belief that the ball was going wide - but he was left in no doubt about the consequences of his error as the Schalke crowd vociferously celebrated the goal.
PAOK almost summoned an immediate reply from the restart, as Costin Lazar's effort was cleared off the line by Fuchs, but the Germans recovered their control to ease into half-time with a one-goal advantage.
Schalke's domination of the match continued into the second half, though they were regularly denied clear shots at goal by some dogged defending from the visitors. As a result, frustration began to creep into the hosts' play, and they wasted some presentable chances with snatched finishes, making PAOK's eventual equaliser feel almost inevitable.
Stoch was the hero for the visitors, jinking in from the left-hand side and unleashing a tremendous curling effort beyond a helpless Timo Hildebrand with 73 minutes on the clock. Unfortunately, the former Chelsea man's goal also resulted in unrest among the home support, with police entering the fray in an attempt to restore order.
On the pitch, Schalke had two chances to immediately restore their advantage, but Farfan's shot was brilliantly blocked by the PAOK defence before Benedikt Howedes' attempted outside-of-the-boot finish from a fabulous through-ball was stopped by Jacobo.
The hosts received another blow moments later when Farfan was taken from the pitch on a stretcher, and they could not grab another goal in the final minutes to regain control of the tie prior to the return leg in Greece next week.
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