fast little loans
Gelsenkirchen, Germany – Schalke were left wondering ‘what if’ on Wednesday after the Bundesliga club could not overcome a poor first half and lost 3-2 to Galatasaray to get bounced from the Champions League round of 16.
After a 1-1 first leg away draw, Schalke were looking to return to the quarter-finals for the third time following 2008 and 2011. But Schalke went down 2-1 at the break after two goals in the final eight minutes of the first half. After an equalizer half-way through the second half, a final attempt to grab the win late was spoiled by Umut Bulut's goal five minutes into injury time.
“This is bitter. We were better in both matches. We were eliminated unnecessarily,” said Schalke keeper Timo Hildebrand.
“We are naturally disappointed. If you take all four halves together, we were very, very unlucky to be eliminated,” said Schalke coach Jens Keller.
“We lost the return leg in the first half. We were missing a lot of things that we had done well recently. We were missing our aggressiveness.”
“The Schalke dream is over” was the headline of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung while the Sueddeutsche Zeitung led with “Rough landing”.
The mass daily Bild splashed above its copy a quote from Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes saying: “That was our own stupidity.”
Bild also used the headline “Schalke moaning after Altintop hammer,” referring to Hamit Altintop's goal against his former team.
There was plenty of talk around Germany that, of all players, Altintop scored for Galatasaray. The Turkish international is a Gelsenkirchen native who played for Schalke from 2003 to 2007 and his mother still lives only 7 kilometres from Schalke's arena.
“I have to first say that I am still a Schalke man, even if no one wants to believe me. But now I am with another club ... I hope the Schalke fans don't take offence to that,” said Altintop, who scored to make it 1-1.
The disappointment is even greater especially because Schalke had returned to form just in time to fight for a return to the final eight. The Royal Blues have won three straight matches in the Bundesliga, including the derby victory over Borussia Dortmund.
A four-match undefeated streak since Schalke's 4-0 loss at Bayern pushed Schalke from 10th place on the table after 21 match days to their current fourth place – the Champions League qualification spot.
And hopes were high that Schalke would become the second of three German sides to reach the Champions League quarters following Dortmund's advancement last week and Bayern Munich holding a 3-1 lead over Arsenal going into their home leg on Wednesday.
The improved play increased the chances that Keller would be kept on after his caretaking status until the end of this season. The coach however can no longer hang his hat on the Champions League and must prove himself with the team in the Bundesliga.
Looking to the rest of the season, Schalke have one final tough three-match stretch coming in mid-April when they take on third-placed Bayer Leverkusen at home, travel to fifth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt and host sixth-placed Hamburg in consecutive matches.
Keller's team and Schalke fans would not have minded the double burden of playing in two competitions. But the dream is over and now the Royal Blues must focus on returning to the Champions League next season. – Sapa-dpa