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Fuchs drive keeps Schalke on course

FC Schalke 04 1-0 Olympiacos FC
Christian Fuchs's long-range effort kept the home club a point clear at the top of Group B and sent the visitors into the UEFA Europa League.

Fuchs drive keeps Schalke on course
Fuchs drive keeps Schalke on course ©UEFA.com

Christian Fuchs propelled FC Schalke 04 into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with a long-range strike that gave the German club a 1-0 win against Olympiacos FC.

Beaten down the road in Dortmund last season, Olympiacos knew avoiding the same fate in the blue-and-white half of the Ruhr Valley would leave them with destiny still in their own hands come the visit of Arsenal FC to Piraeus on matchday six. Their stubbornness promised to make it a frustrating night for Schalke, but the hosts were rescued by Fuchs, who fizzed home his first UEFA Champions League goal from 30 metres with 13 minutes left. Olympiacos have the consolation of a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. 

Leonardo Jardim had hinted his side would play conservatively, and the banks of red-and-white shirts that Schalke faced were ample evidence of that. Rare were the occasions on which the visitors were caught out, though when Kostas Manolas was unable to cut out an arcing Fuchs cross, Olympiacos were thankful Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was too surprised to convert.

Fuchs's left foot frequently provides as much attacking menace as it does defensive security, and the Austrian full-back then launched a free-kick dipping goalwards which only Roy Carroll's full-length dive could halt. The Northern Irish international had been beaten minutes earlier by Lewis Holtby's devastatingly ferocious strike, but the crossbar had intervened on the away team's behalf.

Schalke missed a series of openings at home to both Montpellier Hérault SC and Arsenal FC and were again in generous mood. Huntelaar sent an angled drive zipping wide of the far post before Julian Draxler, having enticingly jinked in from the left, fired wide.

Fortunately for the Bundesliga outfit, Olympiacos's attacking ambitions were minimal. They did hare forward enthusiastically following a slip by their former team-mate Kyriakos Papadopoulos, but Djamel Abdoun's overhit cross meant a promising counterattack fizzled out.

The interval did nothing to alter Schalke's intentions, nor their accuracy. Having dropped slightly deeper to find space, Huntelaar shot just wide, and when Draxler's persistence enabled him to cross for the Dutchman, who averaged a goal a game before kick-off, his header merely picked out Carroll.

Their profligacy may have come at a high price had Lars Unnerstall fumbled Paulo Machado's effort into his own net rather than the side-netting. Instead, Fuchs's strike, teed up by Jermaine Jones, means Huub Stevens' men will travel to Montpellier on 4 December safe in the knowledge their "dream", as midfielder Roman Neustädter called it, is still alive.

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