Sparta Prague 1-1 Schalke 04: Away stalemate keeps Die Knappen top of the group
Geis tucks away his penalty (photo: reuters)

FC Schalke 04 didn't do enough for the win, but did enough to remain top of their Europa League group, as they drew 1-1 away against Sparta Prague.

They say that football is a game of two halves, and that proved to be right as an exciting first half, that saw David Lafata and Johannes Geis find the net, was cancelled out by a dreary second, where neither side could find a winner.

Home side take surprise early lead

André Breitenreiter selected a strong side in hope of pressing home his sides advantage in the group, but it was the hosts who took a surprise lead after five minutes.

Kehinde Fatai strained to keep the ball in play down the flank, before sliding it to Lukáš Mareček to cross. He whipped a well floated ball across the six yard box, and Lafata made no mistake in heading in the opener, sending the home fans into raptures.

The ball was in the net once more just 10 minutes later, again for the home side. It wasn't to be this time though, with the linesman ruling out Fatai's strike, due to him having ran offside, keeping the score at 1-0.

Geis penalty levels things up

However, things couldn't stay that way for long, with Schalke levelling things up from the penalty spot minutes later. Costa Nhamoinesu brought down Leon Goretzka inside the area, leaving referee Carlos Gomez with no choice other than to award a penalty.

Summer signing Geis stepped up confidently, and continued his impressive start to life at Schalke by tucking away a solid penalty to make it 1-1.

Both sides looked confident on the ball and were looking to take the lead following that hectic opening 20 minutes, and it showed with Borek Dockal forcing Schalke 'keeper Ralf Fahrmann into a good save at one end, just after Junior Caicara made David Bicik make an impressive one at the other.

Goretzka was hoping to get on the scoresheet after winning Schalke's penalty, but saw his long range effort beaten out for a corner, in the last effort of note in an entertaining first half.

Second half doesn't live up to expectations

As both teams came out for the resumption, there was hope that'd we'd see both more entertainment and more goals in the second 45, but it proved to be a very different story.

One of the best chances of the second half came early on, with Dockal again looking to get a goal, but yet again Fahrmann denied him. His team then went up the other end, and saw Goretzka's effort bounce back off the crossbar.

Those two efforts proved to be the best of a 45 minute period which was littered with yellow cards and subsitutions, which unfortunately saw the match begin to burn out.

Gortezka, a certain candidate for man of the match, continued pressing for a winner but was unable to clinch all three points for his side, seeing an effort fly wide in the final minutes.

The draw leaves Schalke top of Group K on eight points, two ahead of Sparta Prague and four ahead of third placed Asteras Tripolis, meaning that a win in the next matchday would send them into the round of 32.

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