Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 remain top of UEFA Europa League Group K after drawing 2-2 with AC Sparta Praha in an entertaining encounter at the Veltins Arena on Thursday evening.
Goals: 1-0 Di Santo (6’), 1-1 Fatai (51’), 1-2 Lafata (63’), 2-2 Sane (72’)
Both sides came into this game yet to lose in the group stage, and as such both began confidently by pouring forward at every opportunity. Schalke struck first blood, however, when Franco Di Santo headed in from Kaan Ayhan’s excellent free-kick. The Royal Blues did not have things all their own way, though, as Sparta’s lively attack created several openings with their quick passing and movement around the edge of the box.
Their pressure took its toll early in the second period when Benedikt Höwedes’ poor clearance ricocheted kindly for Sparta attacker Kehinde Fatai, who found himself free in front of Ralf Fährmann and slotted home coolly. Buoyed by that effort the visitors took the lead when David Lafata prodded in from close range after Schalke failed to clear their lines from a corner. However, Andre Breitenreiter’s men hit back through substitute Leroy Sane, who secured a point by squeezing the ball in from a tight angle after latching on to Di Santo’s through ball.
Man of the match
Di Santo may not have found the net for Schalke in the Bundesliga yet, but he is certainly proving his worth in the Europa League. The Argentinian striker was full of menace this evening, scoring one and creating another to earn the Royal Blues are vital point.
It was not the win they had hoped for but Schalke can still take plenty of positives from this game. They remain unbeaten in the Europa League so far, are still top of Group K and showed good character in fighting back to equalise after going behind in the second half.
- Di Santo has now scored four goals in three Europa League matches this season.
- Sane has hit the target four times in his last seven games this term.
- Junior Caicara had more touches (68) than any other Schalke player.
Schalke: Fährmann - Junior Caicara, Höwedes, Ayhan (Geis 61’), Kolasinac (Aogo 84’) - Neustädter, Goretzka – Höjbjerg (Sane 61’), Meyer - di Santo, Choupo-Moting
Sparta Praha: Bicik - Marecek, Brabec, Nhamoinesu, Frydek - Jiracek, Dockal, Matejovsky (Husbauer 90+2’) – Konate (Lafata 62’), Krejci, Fatai (Holek 88’)