Schalke boss Ralf Rangnick sung the praises of his players after they qualified for the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.After winning the first-leg of their quarter-final 5-2 at Inter Milan, Raul’s goal on the stroke of half-time settled any nerves and virtually assured the Bundesliga outfit of progression.
And although Thiago Motta scored an equaliser five minutes into the second half, Schalke defended well and even grabbed a winner through Benedikt Hoewedes as they wrapped up a 7-3 aggregate victory.
It is the first time Schalke has progressed to the last four of Europe’s most prestigious club competition, and Rangnick was bursting with pride after their win over the defending champions.
“We’ve produced two great performances,” Rangnick said.
“If you only allow the Champions League winners a couple of chances, you know you have played well.”
“Each player worked hard for each other and that was the key to our success.”
The result sets up a semi-final meeting with EPL giants Manchester United, and defender Christoph Metzelder believes the side has huge potential to cause an upset, as shown in the two legs against Inter.
“We have seen in the two games just how much team this potential has, we really wanted to win this game out right,” Metzelder said.
While the Germans were delirious with the victory, which also saw legendary striker Raul join the fans for post-match songs and celebration, Inter boss Leonardo was shattered.
The former Milan player was ‘bitter’ about the result and insisted he believed that his side could overturn the three-goal deficit ahead of the second leg.
“There is bitterness and it is hard to digest,” Leonardo told Rai Sport.
“But I think the team spent plenty of effort in these last months in the Champions League and in Serie A.”
“We got into difficulty in the vital moments. I had dreamed of a comeback and we could have scored early or been more concrete in our play.”
“We could have done better in certain situations. I really believed in it for sure because we played well in the first half, but we did not have any chances to score the goals (we needed).”
Inter will now apply their focus to the Serie A campaign, with the club five points behind table-toppers and city rivals AC Milan, while Leonardo also said the Coppa Italia is another target for his side.
“We have to be good to focus now as we have the league and Coppa Italia to fight for,” he said. “There is still plenty of work to do.”