GELSENKIRCHEN - Two goals from
Jefferson Farfan inspired Schalke 04 to a 3-1 comeback win over
Valencia on Wednesday that put them into the Champions League
last eight and gave coach Felix Magath respite from his critics.
Hours before Schalke advanced to the quarter-finals for only
their second time, Magath denied media reports he was leaving
Schalke at the end of the season and at previous games he had
been greeted by fans waving huge banners saying "Magath out".
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This time he left the ground with fans chanting his name and
wearing T-shirts reading "I like Felix Magath" after his team
secured a 4-2 win on aggregate after a spirited performance
against the twice Champions League finalists from Spain.
Valencia had taken the lead through Ricardo Costa on 17
minutes before Peruvian Farfan levelled with a well-struck free-kick on 40 minutes. Mario Gavranovic put them ahead with a low
drive on 52 minutes and Farfan made sure of the win in stoppage-time.
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"With such games where it is all or nothing, there is a lot
of pressure and when you are so stressed that you cannot really
play your game," Magath told reporters of his team's sluggish
start. "It was difficult to press early in the game."
"The noise before the game (regarding his contract) should
not interest or affect us because the truth is on the pitch.
After going 1-0 down we had nothing more to lose so we went for
Schalke, who last won the German championship in 1958, have
made the Champions League last eight once before, in 2008. They
have also won all their home games this season in the
Magath's team have struggled in the Bundesliga all season
but last week booked their place in the German Cup final, also
advancing 4-2 on aggregate.
Early on, it was Valencia who looked to be in control of the
tie, after a 1-1 draw in Spain in the first leg, when they
struck on 17 minutes with a header from Costa.
The Spaniards missed a slew of chances with Schalke
goalkeeper Manuel Neuer keeping the scoreline low in the first
half with superb saves that have made him one of the hottest
commodities on the European transfer market.
Valencia were punished for their sloppy finish five minutes
from the break when Gavranovic won a free kick and Farfan curled
over the wall and into the net.
The 21-year-old Gavranovic would not have even been on the
pitch were it not for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar being injured and the
Swiss made the most of his chance when he gave his team the lead
in the 52nd minute with a shot that bounced off both posts.
Gavranovic also twice hit the woodwork late in the game
before Farfan made sure of the victory after a nervy final few
minutes when he dinked the ball over the keeper in the fourth
minute of stoppage-time.
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