An exquisite Christian Pander free-kick secured FC Schalke 04 victory against Club Atlético de Madrid and a slender lead to take into the second leg in two weeks' time.
Pander's 30th-minute set-piece capped an enterprising opening by Schalke though the hosts' dominance subsided after half-time. Indeed, Atlético could have grabbed an important away goal but could not convert any of their chances and were reduced to ten men 14 minutes from time when Antonio López was dismissed for a second yellow card.
A capacity crowd of 54,142 in Gelsenkirchen witnessed the Bundesliga club get off to the better start in a game which proved captivating from the outset. With just 60 seconds gone, Fred Rutten's side had a fantastic chance when Jermaine Jones swung in a right-wing cross which found its way to Ivan Rakitić and the midfielder's drive from ten metres was well turned over by Atlético goalkeeper Leo Franco. Rakitić had another chance minutes later, and though he miscued an attempted glancing header, Schalke were finally rewarded for their efforts on the half-hour mark as Pander bent a free-kick into the top corner.
The visitors gradually awoke from their slumber and created their first openings just before the break, Maxi Rodríguez forcing Schalke goalkeeper Mathias Schober into action with a shot from distance before Florent Sinama Pongolle directed an effort just wide. It was a sign of things to come and after the restart Atlético went in search of an equaliser. Within five minutes, Diego Forlán fed Sinama Pongolle, who powered past Benedikt Höwedes but was unable to slip the ball beyond Schober. Substitute Luis García wasted another chance though with pressure mounting the visitors were reduced to ten men with 14 minutes left as López received his second yellow for a foul on Jones. Atlético reverted to defence and held on to remain in the hunt for their first group stage appearance in 12 years.