Schalke ousts Inter Milan, reaches CL semis
Schalke completed a surprising rout of title holder Inter Milan, winning 2-1 on Wednesday to reach its first Champions League semifinal.
Schalke advanced 7-3 on aggregate and will play Manchester United in the semifinals, with the first leg at home on April 26.
With Schalke holding a massive advantage following its 5-2 trouncing of Inter in Milan last week, Raul Gonzalez all but sealed the club's passage into the semis when he scored in the 44th minute. Thiago Motta equalized for Inter in the 49th, but Benedikt Hoewedes scored the winner in the 81st for the surprising German side.
''What can you say, we really won it last week,'' Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick said. ''We defended very well tonight, we allowed maybe two chances. We could have won (bigger) again if you count all the chances.''
Inter had most of the possession and seven corners but could not translate the momentum into more chances or goals in the first half.
Schalke was happy to sit back and wait for Inter's mistakes and it was just such a situation that led to the first goal. Jose Manuel Jurado slipped the ball through a huge opening in Inter's defense and Raul easily rounded Julio Cesar to slot home, raising his Champions League record tally to 71 goals.
''It was difficult to get back into it after we conceded that late goal in the first half,'' Inter coach Leonardo said. ''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.''
Leonardo inserted striker Goran Pandev for Dejan Stankovic at the start of the second half and Inter replied four minutes later, after another corner. Lucio headed down the ball to the far post and Thiago Motta slotted it home.
Wesley Sneijder nearly scored for Inter in the 75th, but curled his free kick just wide.
Schalke used another counterattack to get the winner, with Raul sending a long ball behind Inter's defense for defender Howedes to drive past Julio Cesar.
''We showed in both matches how much potential we have in our team,'' said Schalke defender Christoph Metzelder, who played with a face mask to protect a broken nose. ''We wanted to win, we were not happy with 1-1.''
Schalke has had success against Inter before, beating the Italian side in 1997 to lift the UEFA Cup, its last title. The next year, it was eliminated by Inter in the quarterfinals of the same competition.
''Against Manchester, we are clearly outsiders but who knows, if everything comes together maybe we can even reach the final,'' Rangnick said. ''But first we have to concentrate on the Bundesliga.''
Rangnick has been in charge for three weeks, after the firing of Felix Magath.
Schalke is also in the final of the German Cup, having beaten Bayern Munich under Magath.
Facing an almost impossible task of having to win by four goals away from home, Inter tried to get into the match quickly and Sneijder sent a shot from 20 meters (yards) in the fifth minute that was easily mastered by Manuel Neuer.
Sneijder caught Neuer on the wrong foot in the 13th but shot wide.
Raul got off a clean header in the 17th but Julio Cesar was well placed to catch the ball.
Stankovic, who scored a spectacular goal in the first leg, tested Neuer again from more than 20 meters but the Schalke goalkeeper punched the shot away.
Stankovic then found Maicon at the far post from a set-piece but the Brazil defender failed to connect, wasting a good opening.
Inter won 3-2 at Bayern in the previous round after losing 1-0 at home, but it never looked capable of pulling off a similar feat against Schalke.
Last season, Inter won the Champions League and the domestic double under coach Jose Mourinho. His successor Rafa Benitez was replaced by Leonardo in December.