A youthful FC Schalke 04 side were held to a 1-1 draw by AC Sparta Praha in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening.
Goals: 1-0 Lafata (6'), 1-1 Geis (p., 20')
The hosts, who started the game two points behind Schalke in Group K, took the lead after just six minutes when Lukas Maracek’s cross found an unmarked David Lafata, who headed past Ralf Fährmann from close range. Sparta’s lead lasted less than a quarter of an hour, however, as Geis finished coolly from the penalty spot after Costa had felled the former 1. FSV Mainz 05 man inside the area. Andre Breitenreiter’s side visibly grew in confidence after Geis’ equaliser and almost added a second when Leon Goretzka let fly from distance, but David Bicik was equal to it.
Both teams squandered good opportunities to take the lead within the first ten minutes of the second half. Borek Dockal forced Fährmann into a smart save from the edge of the box, before Goretzka rattled the woodwork from deep inside the area after clever play by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The 20-year-old continued to look the most likely source of a winning goal for the Royal Blues, but the Germany Under-21 international spurned another gilt-edged chance to seal all three points when he headed wide just wide of Bicik’s right-hand post with five minutes remaining.
Man of the match
The Royal Blues created more than enough chances to win the match, but Ralf Fährmann’s save from Dockal eight minutes into the second half was crucial. The keeper was a commanding presence for Breitenreiter’s side, who remain on course to reach the knockout stages.
Schalke could easily have left the Czech capital with all three points if Goretzka had remembered to pack his shooting boots for the trip to the Generali Arena. The former VfL Bochum youngster will be hoping he is given an opportunity to make amends against arch rivals Dortmund on Saturday.
- Goretzka completed 94 per cent of his passes against the Czech outfit.
- The average age of Schalke’s midfield in Prague was just 20 and a quarter years.
Sparta: Sparta Praha: Bicik - Marecek, Brabec, Nhamoinesu, Hybs - Jiracek - Dockal - Matejovsky - Fatai (Konate, 88’), Krejci - Lafata (c) (Julis, 90’)
Schalke: Fährmann - Junior Caicara, Neustädter, Ayhan, Aogo - Höjbjerg, Geis - Sane (Meyer, 85’), Goretzka (Kolasinac, 87’), Choupo-Moting - Huntelaar (c.) (di Santo, 77’)