Champions League

Schalke draw to top group

2012-12-05 07:28
Benedikt Howedes (AFP)

Montpellier - Schalke 04 claimed top spot in their final Champions League Group B match with a 1-1 draw at French champions Montpellier on Tuesday.

The Germans, already through to the knock-out round, ensured they go into the draw as group leaders with a two-point advantage on second-placed English side Arsenal, who fell 2-1 at Greek side Olympiakos.

Second-half goals from Schalke's Benedikt Howedes and Montpellier's Emanuel Herrera ensured the hosts ended their first foray into elite European football bottom of the group with just two points - their other point coming from a 2-2 draw at Schalke in October.

"I'm disappointed with the result. I would have preferred to quit the Champions League with a win and I think we deserved to win this evening," said Montpellier coach Rene Girard.

"We tasted the Champions League, I hope there will be a next time. We weren't at our best this campaign.

"We held good in the two matches against Schalke, our only regrets that we didn't take the opportunity to make points against Olympiakos," said Girard of the Greek side who finish third in the group and take the Europa League spot.

Montpellier started without playmaker Younes Belhanda as Girard opted instead for the young Remy Cabella, with Argentine striker Herrera backed up by Souleymane Camara and Anthony Mounier as they bid for all three points.

The Germans started without Dutch star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who was replaced by Romanian forward Ciprian Marica.

In a lacklustre first half, Montpellier's defence and young goalkeeper Jonathan Ligali did well to hold off the Germans with Schalke's Teemu Pukki having the best chance to put Huub Stevens' side ahead after 25 minutes following good work between Ciprian Marica and Julian Draxler only for the Finnish striker to fire just wide.

Howedes broke the deadlock after 56 minutes when the defender dove in with his head to finish off the ball after Christoph Metzelder nodded Lewis Holtby's deep free-kick back across the goal face.

But the hosts were back on level terms three minutes later when Anthony Mounier provided a cross for Herrera. The Argentine's initial header was blocked but the striker did not miss the follow-up.

Herrera missed two chances to grab the winner for the hosts in the dying minutes of the game as former Germany international goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand proved more than a match in the Schalke goal.

"This evening Herrera could have won the match on his own, it's encouraging for the rest of the season," added Girard, whose side are struggling in Ligue 1.

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