GELSENKIRCHEN - Another vintage
performance from Raul sealed Schalke 04's unexpected passage to
the Champions League semi-finals for the first time on Wednesday
as holders Inter Milan were eliminated 7-3 on aggregate.
The 33-year-old Spanish striker scored one goal and set up
another in a 2-1 second leg quarter-final victory for the
Bundesliga side who now face Manchester United in the last four.
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Raul left Real Madrid last year after 16 trophy-rich
seasons, including three Champions League titles, and he again
proved he remains one of the most lethal strikers in Europe.
"These are the rewards for my constant hard work and my love
for the game," a smiling Raul, the Champions League all-time top
goalscorer who now has netted 71 times in Europe's premier club
competition, told reporters.
"Now there will be two tough semi-finals with us against
Manchester United and Real Madrid against Barcelona."
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Raul has become a fan favourite in the former German
coal-mining heartland - a far cry from cosmopolitan Madrid.
He killed off any hopes Inter had of getting back into the
tie after their first-leg humiliation at the San Siro when he
picked up a Jose Jurado cross and rounded Inter goalkeeper Julio
Cesar to slot in the opening goal on the stroke of half-time.
"Raul scored one goal and set up the other for Beni
Howedes," a beaming Schalke captain goalkeeper Manuel Neuer
told reporters. "On Saturday the fans wanted Raul in the stands
but Beni went. Today it is Raul's turn."
Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick, who has overseen four
successive victories since he replaced Felix Magath last month,
added: "This team played two great games against Inter and when
you only allow two chances for the reigning champions then you
understand how good this team worked."
Never before have the blue-whites played in the Champions
League last four but thanks to Raul they now have every right to
dream big when they face Manchester United.
It was never going to be a high-scoring game with Schalke
careful to protect their first leg advantage but it was the
perfect match for Raul.
Lurking for a quick break, the former Spain striker first
threatened after a quarter of an hour with a header. He was on
target just before the break, chasing down Jurado's cross to
slot in before Thiago Motta levelled with a volley four minutes
after the restart.
But the Spaniard then orchestrated their second win in two
games against a largely toothless Inter, lobbing the ball
forward over a static defence for Howedes to run on to and
drill a low shot past Julio Cesar nine minutes from time.
The only time Raul looked unsure was when he was told to
lead the celebrations, surrounded by fans in the stands, and the
Spaniard for once looked out of his league, not knowing exactly
what to do.
"Schalke were well organised and we just could not get
things going as we had planned," Inter coach Leonardo said.
"They played very well in both games against us."
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