Many had not given Schalke much of a chance against Inter on Tuesday evening. The holders had been impressive against Bayern Munich, bouncing back from a disappointing performance in their home leg to win 3-2 at the Allianz Arena and scrape through on away goals. Meanwhile Schalke have been struggling in the Bundesliga. Runners-up last year, Schalke sit 11th in their domestic league and their preparation for the Champions League quarter-finals was disrupted by the sacking of their manager Felix Magath who has since been replaced by Ralf Rangnick.
However, despite all these factors, Schalke produced a terrific display of attacking football that exposed an Inter defence that has struggled for consistency since the departure of Jose Mourinho. Twice coming back from behind, Schalke’s dynamic forward play was too much for the Italian side which collapsed late on. The better team ran out comfortable winners on the night, compiling a bad week for Inter who lost 3-nil to bitter rivals AC Milan at the weekend.
Veteran Schalke striker Raul said: “In
New boss Rangnick described the quarter-final encounter as the most “beautiful game” of his career: “Had someone told us before the match that we would win at Inter by a three-goal margin we would have said they were crazy.”
Inter captain Javier Zanetti was stunned by the result: “I don’t know what happened. I cannot explain it. We started well and then there was a total blackout. We are tranquil; we have to stay positive and must look ahead now. Lets think about the league and then we will go to Germany to play for it.”
Not surprisingly, Inter’s Brazilian head coach Leonardo was clearly disappointed with the result: “We put in a lot of effort to arrive at this point and it’s not very realistic to expect a comeback from here. But in football anything can happen.”
The result against Inter disproves the widely-held view that Schalke was one of two remaining minnows in the Champions League. In fact Schalke’s record in the competition this year is impressive; they beat Valencia comprehensively in the last 16, and are unbeaten since losing at Lyon in the first group game.
What is clear is that Schalke are no pushovers, and if they capitalise on this result Chelsea or Manchester United will face a stern test in the semi-final.