FC Schalke 04 were left frustrated after failing to break down a spirited FC Steaua Bucureşti side in UEFA Champions League Group E.
The result leaves the Bundesliga team needing to beat FC Basel 1893 – who usurped them by going second in the section with a 1-0 defeat of Chelsea FC – at home on matchday six to qualify for the last 16. For Steaua, a third draw in succession means they will finish bottom of the pile.
Shorn of first-choice goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand and leading forward Kevin-Prince Boateng through injury, not to mention flu victim Julian Draxler, Schalke might have surveyed the snowy scene inside the Arena Națională and decided the night was not for them.
Instead they relished the challenge and pushed forward with gusto, Max Meyer doing his best to lessen the impact of Draxler's absence with a number of darting runs and clever prompts. The threat was mainly down Schalke's left flank, but Jefferson Farfán was also making his presence felt on the right as he returned to this stage following injury.
So comfortable were the visitors for the first 30 minutes that Ralf Fährmann was enjoying the quietest of UEFA Champions League debuts as Hildebrand's replacement. He watched one instinctive effort from Federico Piovaccari sail over his crossbar yet was otherwise unemployed.
Then, however, following a free-kick, Florin Gardoş headed the ball back into the danger area, where Piovaccari took off for a spectacular volley which Fährmann did well to keep out. Just before that Farfán had come close to giving Schalke the lead as he met a menacing cross from Christian Fuchs with a first-time volley. If anything the connection was too good and over it went.
Steaua showed more penetration after the break and the game remained on a knife-edge. In a flurry of activity in front of Fährmann's goal, Alexandru Chipciu and Andrei Prepeliţă were unable to conjure a shooting chance with the Schalke defence at sixes and sevens. At the other end, Benedikt Höwedes threatened with a header.
It got more desperate nearer the final whistle. A victory was so important to both teams and Steaua were striving in vain not to equal the record for the longest sequence of winless matches in this competition: 22. The home crowd thought Nicolae Stanciu was about to make the decisive intervention when put clear, but Fährmann read his attempted chip.
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.