Schalke 04 clinched the 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 Montpellier Herault.
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 centerhalf 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.
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.
Although Montpellier finished bottom of Group B with two points, the positive sign was that it held the German club in both games.
Making a rare start, Herrera was in fine form and pounced on Anthony Mounier’s cross to bring Montpellier back into the game.
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.
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 forward.
Holtby then burst forward, swapped passes with Marica, but his dangerous cross failed to find a teammate.