Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 face an uphill task in their bid for a UEFA Champions League group stage berth after being held 1-1 at home by PAOK FC
in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie.
Jefferson Farfan fired the Bundesliga outfit in front in the 32nd minute, but a 73rd-minute strike from Miroslav Stoch put the visitors, coached by former Schalke favourite Huub Stevens, in the driving seat ahead of next Tuesday's return leg in Thessaloniki.
The visitors, getting a second bite at the Champions League cherry after their conquerors Metalist Kharkiv were expelled from the tournament, came flying out the blocks, earning a flurry of corners in the opening minutes as Schalke scrambled to get their defences in order. Six minutes in, Marco Höger played a loose ball straight to the feet of Dimitris Salpingidis, but Joel Matip was alert to the danger and blocked the PAOK forward's shot on goal. Not long after that, the hosts had a possible shout for a handball penalty turned down when Miguel Vitor blocked an Atsuto Uchida cross from the right.
It was a nervy opening, but having emerged from it unscathed, Jens Keller's side settled into the contest much better as the first half unfolded. Matip, one of three changes to the side that started at Wolfsburg, was marching out of defence to link up with the forwards at every opportunity and by the midway mark Schalke were effectively decamped outside the PAOK box. All that was missing was the killer touch at the sharp end and with 32 minutes on the clock, Farfan supplied it, coolly slotting his finish in off the post after Adam Szalai's perseverance had set up the chance.
A desperate block from Christian Fuchs prevented Salpingidis nabbing an out-of the-blue equaliser on 38 minutes, Lucas firing the rebound high wide and handsome with the goal at his mercy, after which Jermaine Jones and Julian Draxler both came close to doubling the hosts' advantage before the break.
After it, the visitors from northern Greece gradually started to come out of their defensive shell, albeit without initially creating any chances of note as the contest threatened to get bogged down in a midfield stalemate. But with just under 20 minutes to go, Keller's team were punished for their increasing passivity when Stoch cut in from the left and fired a bouncing shot past home custodian Timo Hildebrand and into the far corner of the net. On 80 minutes, sub Christian Clemens sent Benedikt Höwedes clean through on the PAOK goal, but keeper Jacobo came out on top in the one-on-one. It would prove to be the last chance of note in the contest.
Schalke: Hildebrand - Uchida, Matip, Höwedes, Fuchs - Höger (Goretzka 78'), Jones - Meyer (Clemens 69'), Draxler, Farfán (Pukki 87') - Szalai
PAOK: Jacobo - Kitsiou, Katsouranis, Miguel Vítor, Lino - Tziolis, Lazăr - Lawrence (Kace 62') - Stoch, Lucas - Salpingidis (Athanasiadis 62')
Goals: 1-0 Farfan (32'), 1-1 Stoch (73')