Altintop's delight as Gala reach quarter-finals
GELSENKIRCHEN (AFP) –
Galatasaray midfielder Hamit Altintop admitted that the Turkish league leaders rode their luck at times as they squeezed into the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2001 after knocking Schalke 04 out.
Galatasaray reached the quarter-finals as a last-minute goal from substitute forward Umut Bulut sealed a 3-2 win at Schalke 04 on Tuesday, giving them a 4-3 win on aggregate.
Schalke failed in their bid to join Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals, while Galatasaray star Altintop, who was born in Gelsenkirchen, grabbed the visitors’ opening goal with a superb shot.
Midfielder Roman Neustaedter had given Schalke an early lead, but goals by Altintop, then striker Burak Yilmaz, who has scored eight Champions League goals this campaign, put Galatasaray 2-1 up at the break.
Brazil midfielder Michel Bastos levelled for Schalke in the second-half, before Bulut settled matters much to the Turks’ delight when he rounded Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand in the 95th minute to finish off a counter-attack.
“I have never been a regular goalscorer, but the most important thing is our achievement in reaching the quarter-finals, rather than my goal,” said Altintop after his 37th-minute long-range effort clipped the far post as it went in.
Having drawn the first leg 1-1 in Istanbul three weeks ago, Altintop said belief was the key for the return leg in Gelsenkirchen.
“We knew it was not a bad result from the first leg and personally I believed we could reach the quarter-finals,” he said.
“We played very well in the first half this evening, in the second Schalke tried to put pressure on us and created a few important chances to score.
“Eventually, we got what we needed. I hope we get a good draw on Friday.
“We showed we deserve to be in the quarter-finals, but it was a close game and both teams had their chances.
“Perhaps we had a bit of luck at the end, but I’ll take that.
“We responded well to fight back after conceding the early goal.”
After his team suffered their first defeat in six games, Schalke coach Jens Keller was at a loss to explain the defeat.
“I have no explanation for this first half, we have played like we had done a couple of weeks ago, without the necessary aggressiveness, everyone put in maybe 10 percent less than what was needed,” he said.
“We were not presumptous, but not focused enough, we allowed them too much space.
“In the second half, we dealt with them much better, they played with a diamond formation in midfield and that surprised us.
“We were really strong in the second half, there is no reason to be depressed now.”
With Schalke fourth in the Bundesliga, midfielder Julian Draxler said their season is now about finishing in the top four to make sure they are involved in next season’s Champions League.
“In the second half we had chances, but we didn’t take them – we didn’t have enough luck. The first half (performance) was not good enough,” said the 19-year-old.
“We are very disappointed. Now we have to try to do well in the Bundesliga so we have a chance to play (in the Champions League) again next season.”