Galatasaray reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League after edging out valiant Schalke at the Veltins-Arena 3-2, advancing 4-3 on aggregate.
Despite taking an early lead through Roman Neustadter, the German side were ultimately undone by strikes from Hamit Altintop and Burak Yilmaz just before the break. Although Michel Bastos leveled just after the hour, Schalke still needed another as Gala had scored more away goals and their all-out attack left them vulnerable at the back, with the Turkish outfit making sure of their progress thanks to Umut Bulut’s injury-time effort.
The Super Lig leaders were looking to bounce back from an embarrassing home defeat to Genclerbirligi in their last domestic outing and they started in confident fashion. Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba looked imperious early on and Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand had to be at his best to tip the striker’s fierce effort round the post.
Drogba then played in Selcuk Inan, who ran through on goal but lost his balance and his shot did not unduly trouble Hildebrand. It seemed only a matter of time until the Schalke goal was breached but it was the hosts who took a 17-minute lead very much against the run of play. The visitors failed to clear their lines from a corner and Joel Matip played the ball back to Neustadter, who slotted home with his outstretched left foot.
The strike seemed to settle Schalke, who had won all three league games since the draw with tonight’s opponents in the first leg. Wesley Sneijder served notice to the Gelsenkirchen side, however, when he fired narrowly wide from just inside the area before Altintop brought the tie back to life in the 37th minute.
Drogba squared a free-kick to the Turkish international 25 yards from goal and his fierce blast went in off the post. And five minutes later, Gala had taken the lead when Burak shrugged off the challenge of Benedikt Howedes and lifted over Hildebrand for his eighth Champions League goal in as many games.
Jens Keller’s men started the second half in positive fashion and Teemu Pukki – starting in place of injured star striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar – turned on the edge of the box before his rattling low effort was pushed away by Fernando Muslera at his near post. The Gala goalkeeper was at fault, however, when Michel Bastos leveled in the 63rd minute.
Marco Hoger fired against the crossbar and although it looked like there would be no follow-up, Muslera fumbled and left Atsuto Uchida to square for the Brazilian to fire into an empty net. Sneijder went close to immediately regaining the lead for Gala but he hammered wide. It was Schalke who gained the upper hand thereafter, with Muslera slightly redeeming himself by smartly parrying away Julian Draxler’s effort.
Gala then had to make a change as defender Semih Kaya was carried off the pitch having been knocked out although that did not seem to affect the Istanbul side, who held firm in spite of some probing pressure from Schalke. However, the hosts left themselves wide open to the counter in search of a winner and it was Gala who stole up the other end to make sure of their progress to the quarter-final. Substitute Umut beat the offside trap in the fifth minute of injury time and beat Hildebrand at the second attempt to send the visitors wild with joy.