Thessaloniki - FC Schalke 04 secured their place in the UEFA Champions League group stages with a 3-2 win (4-3 on aggregate) over PAOK FC in Greece.

Adam Szalai put the visitors ahead just before half-time, but Stefanos Athanasiadis equalised shortly after the restart. Jermaine Jones was then sent off for two bookable offences, before Julian Draxler put the Royal Blues 2-1 up with a calm finish. Konstantinos Katsouranis ensured a nervy end to the game, but Szalai sealed victory for Schalke with a last-minute goal.

Schalke start well

With the tie level at 1-1 going into the second leg, Schalke knew they had to score to stand a chance of progressing to the group stages and the visitors started brightly. Christian Fuchs’ inswinging free-kick from the right was met by the head of Jones after three minutes, but PAOK keeper Jacobo was able to save comfortably.

Schalke then deservedly took the lead just before half-time when a long ball from Jefferson Farfan was played into the path of Szalai by Atsuto Uchida and the Hungarian managed to poke the ball past Jacobo.

Jones sees red

The second period began poorly for the visitors. PAOK flew out of the traps and seemed to catch Jens Keller's men off guard, and they were rewarded for their efforts on 53 minutes when Anathasiadis found the top corner with a powerful effort.

Things got worse for Schalke on 65 minutes when Jones - booked in the first half for a foul on Dmitris Salpingidis - was given his marching orders for a clumsy tackle from behind on the same player. Incredibly, though, Schalke re-took the lead just moments later as substitute Max Meyer’s pass found Julian Draxler, who rounded the keeper before calmly slotting the ball into the net.

Szalai secures win

Despite their second away goal, the visitors still had to play with ten men for the remainder of the match and Katsouranis ensured a nail-biting finish when he beat Marco Höger in the air to head home a free-kick. Miroslav Stoch then came close to breaking Schalke hearts with a curling effort from the edge of the box.

However, Jens Keller's men confirmed their place in this season’s group stages on 90 minutes, when Draxler cut the ball back for Szalai to grab his second of the night and seal Schalke's place in Europe's premier club competition for the third time in four seasons.


PAOK: Jacobo - Kitsiou, Katsouranis, Miguel Vitor, Skondras - Tziolis, Kace - Lucas (Georgiadis, 80') – Stoch – Salpingidis (Oliseh, 74‘), Athanasiadis (Necid, 74‘)

Schalke: Hildebrand - Uchida, Santana, Höwedes, Fuchs - Höger, Jones - Farfan (Matip, 83‘), Draxler, Clemens (Meyer, 61‘) (Neustädter, 70‘) - Szalai

Goals: 0-1 Szalai 43', 1-1 Athansiadis 53', 1-2 Draxler 67', 2-2 Katsouranis 79', 2-3 Szalai 90'

Matthew Howarth