Thursday, April 14, 2011

Schalke 2-1 Inter Milan (agg 7-3)

Raul Raul scored the opening goal for Schalke

Schalke eased into a Champions League semi-final against Manchester United after dominating defending champions Inter Milan for a second time.

Raul all but ended Inter's hopes of a comeback when he picked up Jose Manuel Jurado's pass, rounded Julio Cesar and slotted in on the stroke of half time.

Thiago Motta equalised, poking Lucio's header past Manuel Neuer.

But Raul's delightful chip put Benedikt Howedes through and the centre-back drilled a low finish into the corner.

After their disastrous 5-2 defeat at the San Siro, Inter went into the second leg with the weight of history against them, as no team needing to win by a four-goal margin away from home had ever advanced in the Champions League.

And where invention and goals were required, the Italian side, who are third in Serie A, once again misfired in a tame display that lacked the necessary ideas and invention to break down the German outfit.

In one of the few moments of note early on, Wesley Sneijder stung the palms of Neuer with a drive that was directed straight at the goalkeeper.

Samuel Eto'o was proving to be Inter's best outlet down the flanks but the Italian side struggled to break down the resolute German defence and with the Cameroon striker turning provider, they lacked a presence in the middle where Diego Milito was anonymous.

After 36 minutes, Inter finally tested Neuer for the first time when Dejan Stankovic launched a fierce 25-yard effort that flew towards the top corner but the German international, who has been linked with a move to Manchester United, tipped the ball around the post.

Schalke, ninth in the Bundesliga, never looked like they would throw their huge lead away and on the stroke of half time former Real Madrid striker Raul picked up Jurado's through-ball and rounded Cesar before notching a record 71st Champions League goal.

Inter came out for the second half with renewed purpose, perhaps partially fuelled by an desire not to be humiliated, and their attacking play was rewarded when Sneijder's cross was powered towards goal by Lucio before Motta flicked out a foot and turned the ball in from six yards.

That comeback was to be a mere flash in the pan for the visitors as Schalke continued to dominate, Kyriakos Papadopoulos providing a constant aerial threat which the onlooking Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will have noted.

It looked like Schalke had heaped further misery on Inter when Howedes fired in at the back post but he was adjudged to be offside with replays suggesting the referee's assistant had made the wrong call.

But Howdes was to have his moment as Schalke wrapped the tie up when 33-year-old Raul, a constant thorn in Inter's side, picked out Howdes with a stunning scooped pass and the centre-back fired into the bottom corner.

Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick:
"What can you say, we really won it last week.

"We defended very well tonight, we allowed them maybe two chances.

"We've produced two great performances.

"Each player worked hard for each other and that was the key to our success.

"Against Manchester, we are clearly outsiders but who knows, if everything comes together maybe we can even reach the final."

Inter Milan coach Leonardo:
"It was difficult to get back into it after we conceded that late goal in the first half.

"We tried to respond but we didn't succeed... The pace was relatively slow and we didn't manage to step it up.

"My compliments to Schalke and to Raul."

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Champions League

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