Real, Schalke in Champions League semis


PARIS – Nine-time champions Real Madrid and surprise packets Schalke 04 made no mistake in securing their places in the last four of the Champions League on Wednesday. Real beat English side Tottenham 1-0 in London to win 5-0 on aggregate after a howler by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes saw Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot go over the line and set up a mouthwatering semi-final clash with bitter rivals Barcelona.
It also kept alive the hopes of coach Jose Mourinho of winning the trophy with three different sides, having won with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan last year – the latter having beaten Barcelona in the semi-finals.
Schalke’s former Real legend Raul made sure that Inter would not be able to repeat their success. He scored his 71st Champions League goal in Schalke’s 2-1 win in Germany to wrap up a 7-3 aggregate triumph and give the veteran Spanish striker hope of an unlikely fourth Champions League winners medal. However the formidable obstacle of Manchester United lie in wait in the semi-finals. Spurs had to make Champions League history in coming from 4-0 down after the first leg and while they made a good fist of it in the first-half, having a goal ruled out and two penalty appeals turned down Gomes’s error put them out of their misery.
Mourinho had fielded a full strength side despite the huge lead from the first leg which paid off but also came at a cost as central defender Carvalho was booked and is suspended for the first leg of the Barcelona clash. “I had to field a first choice side because Spurs are a top class side and capable of scoring early on which would have rattled us and made it a more nervous match,” said Mourinho. “As it was I was right because they had one or two chances in the first-half but Ronaldo’s goal killed the game.”
He said that his side had a chance against Barca. “Lets see what happens. A semi-final is a semi-final. Anything can happen, though, we have not been as fortunate as Barcelona in avoiding suspensions for the match,” said Mourinho. His Spurs counterpart Harry Redknapp said that their successful run on their maiden campaign had whetted his and the players appetite for more. “It isn’t good to play it once and then not be in it the year after,” said Redknapp. “It is imperative that we improve so we can go further. We have seen that we have the players who can play at this level, we just need to tinker with the squad like Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.”
Raul’s goal on the stroke of half-time was the death knell for Inter Milan and even though they levelled through Thiago Motta Benedikt Howedes sealed a well-deserved win nine minutes from time. Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick must be barely able to believe his change in fortune – he started the year by being sacked as coach of Hoffenheim but was appointed to the Schalke post after Felix Magath was sacked on March 16. However, he preferred to pay tribute to the players rather than his contribution.
“The team has produced two great performances, if you only allow the Champions League winners just two chances, you know you have done well,” he said. “Every player worked for his team-mates and that was the key to our success, the boys can be proud of their achievement.”