Jefferson Farfán scored twice as Schalke came from behind to beat Valencia 4-2 on aggregate, sealing their place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2007/08.
Felix Magath’s side have now won all four of their home games in the Champions League this season, although tonight they had to do it the hard way after a 17th-minute Ricardo Costa header tipped the tie in Valencia’s favour. Goals either side of half-time from Farfán and competition debutant Mario Gavranović turned the meeting around, Farfán adding gloss to victory in the fourth minute of added time with a lovely clipped finish.
It was perhaps the 21-year-old Gavranović who caught the eye, however, as he rose to the challenge of filling the void left by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s injury. He ought to have had a goal inside 14 minutes when he contrived to direct a free header from nine metres straight into Vicente Guaita’s gloves. His time would come later, but for a while it appeared a costly miss as Valencia hit the front.
The Spanish outfit’s movement and fluency had already created problems before central midfielder Mehmet Topal tricked his way past Joel Matip on the left. He hit his cross with real pace and venom, and whether or not he was the intended target the ball struck the almost unknowing Ricardo Costa’s forehead and flew past Manuel Neuer.
Schalke were initially rocked, but slowly regained composure and, five minutes before half-time, parity. David Navarro felled Gavranović and Farfán stepped up to curl in a delightful free-kick from a central position 25 meters from goal. Guaita got his left hand to it but was unable to prevent the Peruvian notching his third goal in seven Champions League matches this season.
Seven minutes after the restart the comeback was complete as the lively Gavranović made amends for his earlier miss when Guaita flapped at a high cross. The goalkeeper did well to keep out Farfán’s effort but he could do nothing as the ball fell to Gavranović, who only made his first Bundesliga start at the weekend, as he dispatched a shot in off both posts.
Valencia now had to attack and the outstanding Neuer pulled off a fabulous save to deny Aritz Aduriz after yet another astute Joaquín pass. Heading into the final 20 minutes Tino Costa prodded wide after a pinpoint cross from fellow substitute Roberto Soldado.
With his confidence sky high and Valencia desperately seeking a goal, Gavranović struck the woodwork twice in the final ten minutes, the second effort an outrageous chip from 40 metres in stoppage time. Farfán found the net in similar fashion from much closer range and Magath’s side can now look forward to the draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals on March 18.