Didier Drogba returned to the Champions League as Galatasaray drew 1-1 with Schalke in an entertaining last-16 encounter in Turkey.
The Ivorian's last touch in the competition was the winning kick that secured the trophy for Chelsea last season and he looked like being involved in another triumph when Burak Yilmaz fired the hosts in front on 12 minutes.
However, the German outfit were impressive throughout and deservedly levelled on the stroke of half-time through Jermaine Jones.
Both teams had chances to win it in the second half but the defences held firm to leave the tie finely poised when they reconvene at the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen on March 12.
The pre-match hype inevitably centred upon Aslan's January recruits with Drogba and Wesley Sneijder both starting together for the first time.
The duo can each boast Champions League glory in recent years with Sneijder's 2010 success with Inter Milan matched by Drogba's heroics in last year's final.
Indeed, the Ivorian's move to Turkey has had the whole football world talking and there was an air of expectation amongst a carnival atmosphere as the game got underway.
Drogba was inevitably involved in the opener, combining with Selcuk Inan to pick out the run of Yilmaz. The striker brilliantly flicked the ball beyond his marker before despatching a venomous shot beyond Timo Hildebrand.
It was the talismanic forward's seventh goal in this season's Champions League, making him the first Turkish player to reach that tally in the competition.
Schalke responded and should have been level almost immediately. Benedikt Hoewedes rose well to head a corner back across goal but Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, back in the side following an eye injury, somehow failed to turn home at the far post.
The visitors were playing the better football but the hosts remained a threat on the break and almost doubled their lead soon after.
Drogba forced a fine stop out of Hildebrand with a rasping low drive and when the rebound fell to Hamit Altintop, he lost his composure and crashed the ball against the crossbar with the goal gaping.
Jefferson Farfan then came within a whisker of levelling with a shot on the turn before Yilmaz inspired another fine save from Hildebrand with an angled drive.
It looked like Gala would hold their lead going into the interval until a mix up in the midfield presented the German side with the chance to restore parity on 44 minutes.
Huntelaar fed Farfan who surged down the right before crossing for Jones, whose first-half booking means he will miss the return leg through suspension, to fire home. It was the USA star's first goal in the Champions League for five years and could prove vital in the overall complexion of the tie.
Schalke remained the better side following the restart and Julian Draxler teed up Farfan for a shot that was miraculously blocked inside the six-yard box.
Next, it was Huntelaar who went close, hooking a volley over after more good approach play by Draxler.
At the other end Drogba flicked on for the freescoring Yilmaz, but on this occasion the Turkish hitman fizzed his volley inches past the upright.
As the clock ticked down both teams pushed for a winner but it was not to be and Schalke head into the return leg as slight favourites courtesy of Jones's away goal.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Burak Yilmaz - Galatasaray: Showed once again just why he is up there as one of the most prolific hitmen in this season's Champions League with another fine strike.
GALATASARAY: Muslera 6, Sarioglu 6, Kaya 6, Nounkeu 6, Riera 6, Altıntop 6, Felipe Melo 5, İnan 6, Sneijder 4, Drogba 6, Yilmaz 7. Subs: Eboue 6, Amrabat 6, Bulut 4.
SCHALKE: Hildebrand 7, Kolasinac 6, Hoger 6, Howedes 6, Matip 6, Jones 6, Draxler 7, Neustädter 6, Huntelaar 5, Bastos 6, Farfan 6. Subs: Pukki 6, Barnetta 4.
- Sports & Recreation
- Didier Drogba
- Champions League
- Burak Yilmaz