Sun, Aug 12, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Schalke hold champions Stuttgart

AP, STUTTGART, GERMANY

PHOTO: REUTERS

Ivan Rakitic scored after a solo run to give Schalke a 2-2 draw on Friday against defending champions Stuttgart in the opening round of the Bundesliga's 45th season.

The 19-year-old Croat made his Bundesliga debut in a matchup between the league's top two teams from last season. Weaving between three Stuttgart defenders, Rakitic fired a low equalizer inside the left post in the 76th minute.

Rakitic was signed by Schalke to replace Lincoln, the Brazilian playmaker who signed with Turkey's Galatasary this season.

"I think I showed something there ... I hope it continues like that," said Rakitic, who is Swiss-born but chose to play for Croatia.

The two teams played a fast-paced second half despite the summer heat with several scoring chances.

The game's first two goals were deflected. Levan Kobiaschwili scored in the 25th minute for Schalke while Sami Khedira leveled in the 63rd minute.

Mexico starter Pavel Pardo put Stuttgart ahead by converting a penalty kick in the 67th minute.

That penalty was set up when Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer first dived left to stop a hard shot from Stuttgart's Cacau but was late chasing the rebound. He conceded the spot kick when he bowled over Ciprian Marica.

"I gave it everything I could, but I don't have the speed of a striker," Neuer said. "But nobody really deserved the win. We saw a very good match."

Stuttgart, who won last season with the Bundesliga's youngest team, were missing 22-year-old Mario Gomez. The forward was voted the league's best player last season.

Schalke coach Mirko Slomka said he wasn't disappointed by the outcome.

"Maybe we should have scored that second goal, but Stuttgart have a very good team," Slomka said. "I think this was a terrific opener, maybe the rest of the season will be like this."

Bayern Munich opened their campaign yesterday against Hansa Rostock and will try to show why they are the title favorites after spending 70 million euros (US$97 million) on players like Franck Ribery and Luca Toni.

Ribery, signed from Olympique Marseille, has stood out in preseason games and is widely expected to become the league's top star.

Toni, who won the World Cup with Italy last year, arrived from Fiorentina to bolster Bayern's attack and will be paired up front with Miroslav Klose, another new signing.

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