No happy returns to Champions League for Drogba as Schalke draw comfort with Galatasaray
Galatasaray 1 Schalke 1
JERMAINE JONES' strike in the last minute of the first half gave Schalke a slight advantage as they drew 1-1 at Galatasaray in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 encounter.
Jones calmly slotted home after Jefferson Farfan had squared the ball to him to give the German side a vital draw at the Turk Telekom Arena, although Schalke's goalscorer will miss the second leg after picking up a booking.
Burak Yilmaz had earlier put Gala in front with a piece of individual brilliance but they could not extend their lead in a breathtaking first-half in which both teams failed to convert several glorious opportunities.
The second half was decidedly less open, although Yilmaz nearly gave the hosts a slender lead heading into the second leg but could only fire wide of the target.
Gala duo Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder both made their returns to the Champions League after completing recent moves from Shanghai Shenhua and Inter Milan respectively.
But it was Yilmaz who produced a moment of magic worthy of either of the pair when he broke the deadlock in sparkling fashion.
The forward collected the ball from Selcuk Inan on the edge of the area before flicking over Schalke defender Benedikt Howedes with his heel and wonderfully firing into the roof of the net in the 12th minute.
It was a sickening blow for the visitors, who had seen Gala keeper Fernando Muslera make fine saves from both Jones and Klaas Jan Huntelaar in the opening minute.
Nevertheless they nearly levelled almost immediately after Yilmaz's brilliance, but Huntelaar just failed to connect with Howedes' flick-on from Farfan's corner.
And in an increasingly open first half, they were nearly made to pay when Howedes fired against the bar with the goal gaping after Drogba had seen his left-footed strike fingertipped away by Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.
It was the German side who nearly scored next though, with Semih Kaya deflecting Farfan's cutback wide of his own post, while the influential Schalke striker struck over on the turn despite being given plenty of space in the area.
Both sides seemed to view attack as the best form of defence and Drogba, who was making a nuisance of himself in Schalke's backline, played in Yilmaz but he could not lift his effort over Hildebrand.
Yet Schalke drew level on the stroke of half-time courtesy of United States international Jones, who will miss the second leg after picking up a booking for dissent.
Farfan burst through on goal after Gala had given the ball away in midfield and squared for the free Jones and he calmly struck past Muslera.
It was a far more subdued affair after the interval although Schalke did have a decent penalty appeal turned down when Farfan's fierce strike looked to have cannoned off Sabri Sarioglu's hands, which were raised to his chest.
It was not until late on that the game sprang back into life, with Yilmaz shooting across the face of goal from Drogba's inch-perfect flick-on while Sarioglu's half-volley from the edge of the area was tipped over by Hildebrand.
And Gala's efforts to push for a winner nearly backfired completely when, at the other end, Julian Draxler dribbled to the edge of their box unchecked before shooting inches wide of Muslera's right-hand post.