Galatasaray's Burak Yilmaz (C) scores past Schalke 04 goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand (R) during their Champions League match at Türk Telekom Arena in Istanbul on Feb 20. REUTERS photo
Galatasaray and Schalke 04 finished 1-1 in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie at Istanbul’s Turk Telekom arena following goals by Burak Yılmaz and Jermaine Jones in the first half.
Galatasaray’s two sensational mid-season transfers, Ivorian striker Didier Drogba and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, were on the field among the starters in tonight’s game, creating much expectation among the Istanbul side's supporters. Failing to disappoint, the fans that packed the 52,000-seat Türk Telekom Arena created a din for much of the match.
However, it was Schalke 04 that had the first opportunity to score with Jones, but his shot was saved by Fernando Muslera in the first minute. The German
side appeared to settle better over the first 10 minutes of the match, but the Lions tried to create a sense of danger with their attacking duo of Drogba and Burak.
Burak converted Galatasaray’s first dangerous opportunity into a goal at the 12th minute. The competition’s top scorer sublimely controlled the ball before lashing a shot above Schalke 04 goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.
It seemed destined to become 2-0 just five minutes later, as Drogba had a clear sight at goal, only to see his shot spilled into the path of Hamit Altıntop by Hildebrand, but the Turkish international and former Schalke player hit the crossbar. This was Galatasaray's seventh and Hamit’s third shot to hit the bar in the Champions League.
Following Galatasaray’s goal, Schalke took back possession of the ball, and nearly equalized in the 20th minute when Diego Farfan's pass was deflected by Semih Kaya just past his own post.
The Istanbul side responded with several dangerous counter attacks, but Sneijder shot wide in the 25th minute, while Burak also had a couple of opportunities in the 37th and 40th minutes that were well-saved by Hildebrand.
In the last minute of the first half, Farfan led a counter-attack and found Jones who beat Muslera in a one-on-one for the equalizer.
Sneijder was substitued by Nordin Amrabat for the beginning of the second half. Galatasaray enjoyed more possession during the second stanza and increased their pressure on Schalke 04 after the 70th minute.
In the 76th minute, Drogba found a connection with Burak, out-jumping Schalke’s defense and sending a superb headed pass to the Turkish International, but Burak’s cross went just a tad wide of the bar.
In the 78th minute, Hildebrand had to use his fists to save a missile from Sabri Sarıoğlu from outside the penalty area. Schalke had its most dangerous position in a counterattack in the 79th minute, but Muslera managed to turn Draxler’s shot out for a corner.
The hosts hope to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001, while Schalke has qualified for the last eight twice in recent campaigns, in 2010/11 when it was a semifinalist, and in 2007/08.