Skipper Benedikt Höwedes headed the Royal Blues in front in the 56th minute before Emanuel Herrera levelled for the hosts three minutes later. With Arsenal, who, like Schalke, had already qualified for the knockout round, losing 2-1 at Olympiacos, the share of the spoils was enough to leave the men from Gelsenkirchen top on twelve points, two clear of the north London club.
Stevens freshens things up
Coach Huub Stevens made five changes to the team that drew with Mönchengladbach on Saturday, among them 19-year-old Sead Kolasinac for Christian Fuchs at left back, and Ciprian Marica and Teemu Pukki up front in place of first-choice pairing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jefferson Farfan.
The hosts edged the opening exchanges in a fairly lively start, but it was Schalke who had the first real sniff of goal fifteen minutes in, home keeper Jonathan Ligali rushing off his line to get to Marica's fine through-ball just ahead of Julian Draxler. In terms of quality and flow, the poor condition of the pitch at the De la Mosson Stadium was not doing the contest any favours, but on 25 minutes the visitors finally managed to put a fluid exchange together, Pukki firing wide with the goal at his mercy after being set up by Draxler and Marica.
Action hots up
Another chance, carved out by Lewis Holtby and Draxler in the 32nd minute, ended with the ball hitting a rut just as Tranquillo Barnetta was teeing up his finish. Not long after that, Ligali threw himself at Marica's feet and eventually cleared the danger after the Romanian frontman's first touch had let him down somewhat.
As far as goalmouth action went, that was pretty much that for the first 45 and the first few minutes after the interval did not hold out the promise of anything much changing. Then, though, the action kicked off with a bang. First, Montpellier almost went in front when Timo Hildebrand saved from Anthony Mounier and Atsuto Uchida pulled off a spectacular goalline clearance from Herrera's follow-up, sliding in to knock the ball over the bar. Yet, with 56 minutes on the clock, Schalke managed to go in front. Christoph Metzelder nodded on a long free kick pumped into the box and Höwedes stooped to conquer with a diving header.
The Royal Blues' advantage lasted all of three minutes though. Just shy of the hour mark, Montpellier broke down the left and Herrera got on the end of a ball to the far post, Höwedes blocking that effort on the line only for the Argentinian striker to ram home the rebound. The goal gave the French side something of a second wind and Hildebrand came to Schalke's rescue not long after, keeping his cool to come out on top one-on-one with Remy Cabella.
With the news filtering through that Olympiacos had turned things around against Arsenal, Uchida made another vital interception as the final quarter-hour broke, this time to a pass that would have sent Herrera clean through. From there on in it was backs-to-the wall as the home side pressed for a winner, albeit without too much in the way of inspiration. Hildebrand was nonetheless called into action twice more late on, pulling off match-saving stops against Herrera.
Montpellier: Ligali - Congre, Yanga-Mbiwa, Hilton, Bedimo - Stambouli (Pitau 46'), Estrada - Mounier (Belhanda 67'), Cabella, Camara (Utaka 67') - Herrera
Schalke: Hildebrand - Uchida, Höwedes, Metzelder, Kolasinac - Holtby, Neustädter - Pukki, Barnetta (Jones 72'), Draxler - Marica (Huntelaar 77')
Goals: 0-1 Höwedes (56'), 1-1 Herrera (59')