American midfielder Jermaine Jones’ goal in the last minute of the first half gave Schalke a valuable away goal and made them slight favorites to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals.
It was not all good new for Jones though, as he also picked up a silly yellow card, and will now be suspended to the second leg in Germany.
Burak Yilmaz had earlier put Gala in front with a piece of individual brilliance but they could not extend their lead in a terrific first-half in which both teams squandered several good chances to score.
The Galatasaray forward collected the ball from Selcuk Inan on the edge of the area before flicking over Schalke defender Benedikt Howedes with his heel and wonderfully firing into the roof of the net in the 12th minute.
It was a sickening blow for the visitors, who had seen Gala keeper Fernando Muslera make fine saves from both Jones and Klaas Jan Huntelaar in the opening minute. Nevertheless they nearly leveled almost immediately after Yilmaz’s brilliance, but Huntelaar just failed to connect with Howedes’ flick-on from Farfan’s corner.
And in an increasingly open first half, they were nearly made to pay when Howedes fired against the bar with the goal gaping after Drogba had seen his left-footed strike fingertipped away by Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.
It was the German side who nearly scored next though, with Semih Kaya deflecting Farfan’s cutback wide of his own post, while the influential Schalke striker struck over on the turn despite being given plenty of space in the area.
Both sides seemed to view attack as the best form of defence and Drogba, who was making a nuisance of himself in Schalke’s backline, played in Yilmaz but he could not lift his effort over Hildebrand. Yet Schalke drew level on the stroke of half-time courtesy of American international Jones, who will miss the second leg after picking up a booking for dissent.
Farfan burst through on goal after Gala had given the ball away in midfield and squared for the free Jones and he calmly struck past Muslera. It was a far more subdued affair after the interval although Schalke did have a decent penalty appeal turned down when Farfan’s fierce strike looked to have cannoned off Sabri Sarioglu’s hands, which were raised to his chest.
It was not until late on that the game sprang back into life, with Yilmaz shooting across the face of goal from Drogba’s inch-perfect flick-on while Sarioglu’s half-volley from the edge of the area was tipped over by Hildebrand. And Gala’s efforts to push for a winner nearly backfired completely when, at the other end, Julian Draxler dribbled to the edge of their box unchecked before shooting inches wide of Muslera’s right-hand post.