FC Schalke 04 are through to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the sixth time after surviving a major scare against PAOK FC.
PAOK, under the charge of former Schalke coach Huub Stevens, were hopeful of reaching the competition proper for the first time following last week's 1-1 first-leg draw in Germany. Though they went behind to Ádám Szalai's opener, Stefanos Athanasiadis's equaliser and the dismissal of Jermaine Jones looked to have put them in the ascendancy. However, Julian Draxler and Szalai struck either side of Kostas Katsouranis to earn Schalke a 4-3 aggregate triumph.
The hosts were fortunate not to have fallen behind after just three minutes, Jacobo showing sharp reflexes to keep out Jones's close-range header. The two scorers from last week, Miroslav Stoch and Jefferson Farfán, both threatened before Schalke found a way through. Atsuto Uchida raced on to a raking pass, controlled the ball superbly and squared for Szalai to finish from close range.
Stoch was at it again soon after the interval, flashing a menacing delivery across goal which narrowly evaded Dimitris Salpingidis's lunge. It mattered not, though, for the Greek side were level four minutes later – Stelios Kitsiou provided the perfectly-weighted, defence-splitting pass, and Athanasiadis the rifled first-time finish.
When Jones was sent off for his second bookable offence in the 64th minute, it appeared to be advantage PAOK until Schalke went in front in slick fashion. Substitute Max Meyer, 17, played in Draxler with a delightful through ball and the No10 rounded Jacobo with his first touch before squeezing the ball in from a tight angle.
Though Lucas lacked the composure to convert a fine chance to equalise just moments later, the experienced Katsouranis was on hand to drag PAOK back into the tie when he deftly headed in from Stoch's free-kick. Stoch went close to scoring the elusive third, but Schalke rubber-stamped their progress courtesy of Szalai's simple finish following some excellent work from Draxler.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.