An early goal from stand-in striker Franco Brienza proved enough to give US Città di Palermo a narrow advantage in their UEFA Cup last-16 tie against FC Schalke 04 at the Renzo Barbera stadium.
The Italian forward struck after just 15 minutes, applying a clinical left-footed finish to Paul Codrea's right-wing cross. The home team piled forward in search of further goals as a Schalke side shorn of the influential Kevin Kuranyi struggled to show much attacking endeavour of their own. But Palermo could find no further way through the iron resistance of goalkeeper Frank Rost, whose imperious performance left the Bundesliga team with a fair chance going into the second encounter in Gelsenkirchen.
Poor in Serie A, Giuseppe Papadopulo's team seem to save their best for the UEFA Cup and continued where they left off against SK Slavia Praha in the last round. Brienza, playing in place of the ineligible David Di Michele, soon broke the deadlock and Mario Santana could easily have made it two three minutes later only to be denied by Rost from close range. That set the pattern for a game in which the German side struggled to stem a tide of Palermo attacks.
The visitors did have chances, most notably through Ebbe Sand, whose acrobatic effort went narrowly wide of goalkeeper Mariano Andujar's far post. Søren Larsen's header on the half-hour mark required a goalline clearance from Andrea Barzagli but they proved rare moments of respite. Brienza could have scored his second four minutes before the break but Rost intervened with a fine save and Pietro Accardi, Cristian Terlizzi and Denis Godeas all had further chances but a second goal proved elusive. Schalke rallied towards the end, with Christian Poulsen hitting the post with a header but they were forced to settle for a narrow defeat.