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Plzeň pegged back by predatory Huntelaar

FC Viktoria Plzeň 1-1 FC Schalke 04
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar equalised with 15 minutes remaining to deny the Czech champions a notable first-leg victory in this round of 32 tie.

Schalke's Julian Draxler (left) stops František Rajtoral in his tracks
Schalke's Julian Draxler (left) stops František Rajtoral in his tracks ©Getty Images

FC Schalke 04 will host FC Viktoria Plzeň in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie with the advantage of an away goal thanks to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's second-half equaliser.

A 22nd-minute volley from Vladimír Darida seemed set to give Plzeň a narrow lead to defend in the return next Thursday as Schalke struggled to fashion clear openings. Huntelaar, however, tilted the tie in the Gelsenkirchen team's favour with a predatory strike with a quarter of an hour left.

A vibrant start from Plzeň − playing their first competitive fixture since a 2-2 draw with AC Milan on UEFA Champions League matchday six − gave way to Huntelaar forcing a save from Marek Čech. He warmed the goalkeeper's palms again after getting ahead of Marián Čišovský.

The Czech title holders forced a flurry of corners in the first quarter and from their fourth Darida opened the scoring. Unmarked, the Czech Under-21 international applied a left-footed volley to Pavel Horváth's chip to the edge of the penalty area.

With full-backs František Rajtoral and David Limberský pushing on, Schalke had plenty to contend with. It took a flying Lars Unnerstall save three minutes before the break to prevent Rajtoral doubling the lead following another short corner.

The only Schalke player to carry a threat before the interval, Huntelaar was on the prowl again five minutes into the second half only for Čech to smother. Plzeň responded with Milan Petržela, having exchanged passes with Daniel Kolář, bringing the best out of Unnerstall and Marek Bakoš seeing an effort deflected over.

If any player was going to draw the Bundesliga visitors level, though, it was Huntelaar, and he did not disappoint. With 15 minutes remaining, the Dutch international was in the right place to touch in the loose ball after Jefferson Farfán's stabbed shot struck fellow substitute Ciprian Marica.