FC Schalke 04 got their UEFA Champions League Group B campaign off to a perfect start with victory against Olympiacos FC thanks to goals from Benedikt Höwedes and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Höwedes headed Huub Stevens's team ahead as the first half drew to a close, before the hosts equalised after 58 minutes through Djamel Abdoun. The Olympiacos defence was caught cold moments later, though, as Huntelaar won the game with a composed finish off a post. The Dutch international then struck the same upright soon after but with less success as his penalty rebounded to safety.
Olympiacos, who went into the match with a 100% record from three Greek Super League fixtures, began confidently, fashioning the first opening after five minutes. Captain Vassilis Torossidis cut inside from the right and his threaded pass sent Paulo Machado clear. The midfielder's lob beat Schalke goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall, only for Greece defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos to deny his former club by heading the ball off the goal line.
While Schalke were comfortable in possession and not overwhelmed by the cacophony of noise created by the partisan home crowd, the Bundesliga side struggled in the final third as the Olympiacos rearguard stifled their forays forward. The locals' lone striker Rafik Djebbour proved more of a threat with his intelligent movement off the ball as the half wore on, and the Algerian international came close to scoring when he flicked a header narrowly wide from Machado's corner.
Schalke thought they had scored after 38 minutes as Papadopoulos nodded in after challenging Balázs Megyeri to a high ball, yet the centre-back had fouled the goalkeeper. That proved a prelude to the breakthrough three minutes later as the Gelsenkirchen team went ahead, Höwedes heading in Jefferson Farfán's right-wing corner.
Tranquillo Barnetta, who got the nod instead of Julian Draxler on Schalke's left flank, missed a fantastic opportunity to double the advantage minutes into the second half when he blasted over from close range. The Greek champions were then rebuffed twice by desperate goal-line clearances from Joel Matip and Christian Fuchs.
Olympiacos's pressure finally paid off when Abdoun slotted in after the ball fell to him following Papadopoulos's challenge on Djebbour, though parity lasted all of a minute as Huntelaar precisely finished off a slick passing move. Schalke should have extended their lead when Kostas Manolas felled Barnetta as he surged into the penalty area, yet Huntelaar smashed his spot kick against Megyeri's right-hand upright.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.