Feb 20, 2013, 8:25 PM EST
It’s going to take more than two of the world’s biggest soccer stars to make Galatasaray a true threat in Champions League, with a Schalke 04 side that’s fallen flat in Germany showing the additions of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder may not be enough to get the Turkish champions out of UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16. Having opened with a 1-1 in their tie with Schalke, Gala faces the daunting task of winning or turning around the away goal in Gelsenkirchen to make their big January signings pay off.
Sneijder, a 2010 Champions League winner, moved to Istanbul from Inter Milan in the January window. Drogba, who won this competition last year with Chelsea, soon followed, ending his short stint with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua.
Combined with the relatively fortunate draw of Schalke in the knockout round, the signings had many speculating how fair the Super Lïg leaders could go in Europe. After a day where the duo were relatively quiet, Schalke (who sit ninth in the German Bundesliga) are a step closer to their second quarterfinal appearance in three years.
The match started as Gala would have liked, with quick transition from their defensive third offsetting Schalke’s control. Those transitions payed off in the 12th minute when Schalke defender Benedikt Höwedes failed to clear a speculative pass from midfielder Selcuk Inan. The ball came down to Burak Yilmaz, the competition’s leading scorer, who finished high into the left of net from 16 yards, giving Gala the early lead.
When Hamit Altintop rattled the post minutes later, Galatasaray seemed prime to build on their lead. Yilmaz would later push a shot wide after being put through on goal, another sign the Turks were likely to win the day.
But a misplay by central defender Dany Nounkeu on a ball launched out of Schalke’s third led to the visitors’ only goal. The Cameroonian’s failure to control the ball allowed Jermaine Jones to spring Jefferson Farfan on a counterattack. When the Farfan drew the defense before playing a ball back across the box for Jones, Schalke had their road goal.
It was another example of the often perverse importance of road goals. Given the de facto lead, Schalke used their huge possession advantage (57 percent) to control the second half. Galatasaray were still the more dangerous side, their direct play stressing Schalke’s shakey central defense, but they were never able to craft that vital go-ahead goal. Schalke, given the lead via the road goals tiebreaker, could be content waiting for the final whistle.
As a result, the team of Drogba and Sneijder inched closer to a Champions League exit, in the process answering the questions that underscored their stars’ January acquisitions. It’s going to take more than two big names to make Galatasaray a threat in Champions League.
Man of the Match: This is what Jurgen Klinsmann sees in Jermaine Jones. The U.S. international was a beast in midfield for Schalke, providing the needed muscle at the back while still jumping forward to serve as the team’s connection to their attack. Finishing and creating his team’s only goal, Jones played the most important part in winning a lead ahead of the second leg.
Unfortunately, it’s a second leg he’ll miss. A first half yellow card means Jones sits the Germany match having accumulated too may cautions.
Threesome of knowledge: What we learned
The Türk Telecom pitch needs a lot of work – By the end of the day’s game, Gala’s field was as chewed up as an old MLS pitch after a college football game. Divits throughout led to a choppy, uneven finish, with neither team able to muster a cohesive attack around the field’s ruts.
Excuse me for being too obvious, but shouldn’t a team that can afford Drogba and Sneijder be able to maintain a better field? Granted, Istanbul averages about two-and-a-half inches of rain each February, but it’s not the only place in the world that has to deal with winter precipitation.
I’m sure there’s a good reason why the pitch was destroyed by the end of the night, but was still destroyed.
Gala didn’t set up to Wesley Sneijder’s strengths, either – During the half he was on the pitch, Wesley Sneijder spent part of his time out left, part of his time playing behind the strikers, with Galatasaray shifting formations. It was a curious deployment for a player who has never been able to display his talents when a team isn’t build around him.
That was one of the problems during his last days at Inter, but moving to Galatasaray, it was assumed Fatih Terim would play to Sneijder’s strengths. That’s not what happened on Wednesday.
You want these teams in the quarterfinals – Whichever team makes it through this tie, the other seven quarterfinalists will be hoping to draw them. Neither team performed like a side that could threaten in the Round of 8, and while you never know how teams might improve between now and the next round, the rest of the competition would gladly take their chances against Schalke and Gala.
Packaged for takeaway
- Drogba enabled Terim’s formational flexibility. At the start of the match, the Ivorian played up top with Yilmaz in a 4-4-2, but when Terim brough Sneijder in, Drogba played wide in the defensive phase, with Gala assuming a 4-2-3-1.
- For a convereted midfielder, Albert Reira held up reasonably well at left back for Gala. Granted, there were times when Jefferson Farfan made him look slow, but Jefferson Farfan does that to anybody. Against a Schalke team that tended to favor their right side, Reira didn’t cost his team anything.
- Because of that right lean, you can see why Michel Bastos was a particularly good fit for Schalke. The former Lyon man, deployed on the left of the formation, has license to blindly attack when given the ball.
Dec 6, 2013, 2:42 PM EST
The USMNT forward has shed some light, if vaguely, on what his immediate future might hold as he gears up for Brazil 2014.
Dec 6, 2013, 2:31 PM EST
Let’s break down Germany, Portugal and Ghana and how the U.S. may fare against them:
Dec 6, 2013, 2:20 PM EST
Not that he’ll ask us … but if he does, here’s what we have to say about how the roster should look:
Dec 6, 2013, 2:10 PM EST
At first blush — and by FIFA rankings — three groups look tougher than the rest.
Dec 6, 2013, 1:59 PM EST
The draw for the 2014 World Cup took place in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia today. The draw is the first major event of the tournament and it is in this instance where a lot of things are decided. The long path to winning the World Cup starts here, as the draw sets the difficulty bar for each…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:38 PM EST
The day wasn’t about “dread” for the man known as Deuce, it was about “excitement,” he says:
Dec 6, 2013, 1:28 PM EST
Klinsmann’s side face his home nation Germany, Ronaldo’s Portugal and old foes Ghana in Group G:
Dec 6, 2013, 1:13 PM EST
Here’s a trio of headlines guaranteed to turn the world’s eyes come June.
Dec 6, 2013, 12:47 PM EST
Those tough friendlies are about to pay off, according to the U.S. center back:
Dec 6, 2013, 12:45 PM EST
Full list of all the group games, kick off times, venues and more:
Dec 6, 2013, 10:55 AM EST
Everything you need to know about the 2014 World Cup Draw, with live updates as they happen.
Dec 6, 2013, 10:50 AM EST
Will the Saints bounce back? Or can City keep on a roll? Watch live on NBCSN, Saturday 10am ET:
Dec 6, 2013, 10:34 AM EST
The late Nelson Mandela, who passed away Thursday at age 95, will be honored at all nine Premier League matches on Saturday with a minute of applause. The applause for Mandela, a fan of the sport who was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to South Africa, will also be heard at Championship and FA…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:49 AM EST
Newcastle will look to follow Everton’s lead in ending decades of frustration at Old Trafford, with both the Magpies and Manchester United coming off recently-rare losses.
Dec 6, 2013, 8:41 AM EST
David Moyes denies using an expletive to describe his Old Trafford booing by Everton supporters, while plenty are weighing in on his performance.
Dec 6, 2013, 8:14 AM EST
Why Liverpool should break the bank to keep Suarez at Anfield:
Dec 6, 2013, 7:35 AM EST
Can you name the now seven keepers to win Premier League monthly honors as top player? Hints: Tim Krul of Newcastle just became No. 7, and one man won it with two teams.
Dec 6, 2013, 7:16 AM EST
With Fulham grinding for their Premier League lives, can Dimitar Berbatov help guide the Craven Cottage faithful to safer waters, or is he not the type of player suited for a relegation battle?
Dec 6, 2013, 3:27 AM EST
How does the 2012 Goalkeeper of the Year compare to this year’s runner up?
Dec 6, 2013, 12:12 AM EST
The Everton defender backs David Moyes to have long-term success at Manchester United. So much so, that it almost seems like he wishes his old boss had brought him along to Old Trafford…
- 2014 World Cup Draw: Recapping the event (33)
- What US Soccer wants from the World Cup draw (23)
- Sit down with Orlando City SC: Taking on Beckham, emulating the Timbers and Kaka in 2015 – Part I (21)
- Video of Jermaine Jones’ terrific goal Saturday for Schalke (21)
- 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: The sum of all fears scenario for the United States (17)