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FC Schalke 04 beat FC Steaua Bucureşti 2-1 to book their passage to the UEFA Europa League knockout phase as Group J winners.
The home side looked to be cruising after Kyriakos Papadopoulos capped a dominant opening spell with the opener on 25 minutes. Raul Rusescu unexpectedly restored parity soon after, setting the stage for Raúl González to secure the points with a typical predatory finish on 57 minutes.
The Bundesliga side made a strong start, forcing corner after corner. Their first 11 came to little, with only a header from Raúl González seriously testing keeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu; it proved 12th time lucky. Alexander Baumjohann played the ball short to José Manuel Jurado, whose cross was headed in by Greek defender Papadopoulos.
The boisterous home support celebrated and sat back, expecting more, only to be jolted by a hefty sucker punch. Pablo Brandán's deceptively simple pass found Rusescu in space on the edge of the Schalke area, and the Steaua forward calmly side-footed the equaliser past Lars Unnerstall.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had the first chance after the restart but Tătăruşanu beat away his angled drive. The Dutch international was instrumental as his side regained the lead. Huntelaar made room inside the box and although Eric Bicfalvi managed to block his shot the ball broke to Raúl, who converted from close range to register his first UEFA Europa League goal – to add to 71 in the UEFA Champions League.
Schalke remained superior but although they could not add a third, they hung on and AEK Larnaca FC's victory over Maccabi Haifa FC assured them of top spot with a game to spare. It also left the door open to Steaua, who will advance if they beat AEK Larnaca in a fortnight and Haifa fail to match that at home to Schalke.
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