Schalke goes top with 1-1 draw at Montpellier

Schalke clinched top spot in Group B of the Champions League

ahead of struggling Arsenal on Tuesday after withstanding strong

pressure in the second half to earn a 1-1 draw at French champion


Arsenal’s 2-1 loss at Greek side Olympiakos ensured Schalke

finished two points clear of the 2006 finalists.

”Of course we are happy to have finished the group ahead of

Arsenal, as they are one of the big teams in the Champions

League,” Schalke center half Christophe Metzelder said. ”Real

Madrid would be a fantastic opponent in the next stage. ”

Center back Benedikt Hoewedes put the visitors ahead in the 56th

minute with a diving header after Metzelder had nodded Lewis

Holtby’s free kick back across goal.

Montpellier equalized three minutes later when striker Emanuel

Herrera scored at the second attempt after his header had been

saved by goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.

”I’m proud of my players. Tonight I saw what I wanted to see

from my team. I’m not disappointed, but I think we deserved to win

it,” Montpellier coach Rene Girard said. ”We saw what the

Champions League is about. I hope there is a next time.”

Hildebrand made two excellent saves to deny Herrera as

Montpellier, which is a lowly 13th in the French league, pushed

forward in the closing stages.

”I think we played very well. We had the better opportunities

in the first half and in the second half it was an up-and-down

game,” Schalke coach Huub Stevens said. ”Montpellier certainly

had the chance to win the game, but Timo kept us in it on a number

of occasions.”

Although Montpellier finished bottom of Group B with two points,

the positive sign was that it held the German club in both


”Both matches against Schalke were of a good standard,” Girard

said. ”The regrets we can have are the two (defeats) against


Making a rare start, Herrera was in fine form and pounced on

Anthony Mounier’s cross to bring Montpellier back into the


Either side of his goal, the Argentine forward had an effort

athletically cleared off the line by Japan right back Atsuto Uchida

and then went close with a curling effort in the 64th that flashed

past the post as Montpellier got on top.

”Sometimes we’re very demanding of him,” Girard said. ”He

could have won the game on his own tonight. It’s encouraging for

the rest of the season. ”

Schalke twice looked dangerous in the closing stages of the

first half.

Midielder Julian Draxler beat his marker down the left and his

fine pass picked out Ciprian Marica lurking in the penalty box, but

goalkeeper Jonathan Ligali dived at his feet to thwart the Romania


Holtby then burst forward, swapped passes with Marica, but his

dangerous cross failed to find a teammate.

Ligali had earlier made two timely interventions, stopping a

pass from reaching Marica and rushing off his line to prevent

Draxler from scoring. The lively Herrera’s snapshot was

Montpellier’s best effort of the first half.