Berlin, Oct 23 (IANS) Bundesliga giants FC Schalke 04 played out a 2-2 draw against Czech Republic outfit Sparta Praha at home on the third match day of the UEFA Europa League’s group stage. The “Royal Blues” remain atop the standings of Group K after clinching the late draw. After breaking the deadlock early in the game, Schalke retracted at the second half allowing the visitors to grab a 2-1 lead before substitute Leroy Sane restored parity to secure one point, reports Xinhua. Schalke enjoyed a fairytale start in front of 51,000 spectators at the Veltins-Arena as Argentine striker Franco Di Santo scored just six minutes into the game. He capitalised on Kaan Ayhan’s free kick into the box to head home past Sparta Praha goalkeeper David Bicik.
After the early opener, Schalke withdrew into their shell, allowing Sparta Praha to gain a foothold in the game. As a consequence, Schalke’s laxness and poor conversion were punished by the visitors, as Kehinde Fatai made use of a deflected clearance by Benedikt Hoewedes to beat Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann from close range five minutes into the second half. Schalke tried to respond, but the second goal was marked at the other end of the pitch. David Lafata, who was fielded just 80 seconds, swept in a rebound inside the box to turn the tides to 2-1 for the visitors in the 63rd minute. However, Schalke kept it bowling and leveled the scores through Leroy Sane. The youngster came from the bench to clinch his seventh goal in nine games for Schalke thanks to the through ball by Franco Di Santo.
“We defended the lead in the standings, but the most important fact is that we remain unbeaten,” Schalke head coach Andre Breitenreiten said after the game.
With the 2-2 draw, both sides remain on their positions in the standings of Group K. Schalke sit in the first place with 7 points from three matches, followed by Sparta Praha (5 points), Asteras (1 point) and APOEL (0 points).