Real Madrid CF are among Europe's best eight teams for a fourth consecutive campaign after the nine-time winners completed the job of emphatically eliminating FC Schalke 04 from the UEFA Champions League.
A record 6-1 home defeat in the first leg meant Jens Keller's Schalke faced an all-but impossible task to reach this term's quarter-finals and their challenge got no easier in the return, Cristiano Ronaldo's 12th goal of this season's competition bringing the second leg to life in the 21st minute. Visiting full-back Tim Hoogland's deflected strike ten minutes later brought parity before second-half efforts from Ronaldo again – taking him within one goal of the record for a European Cup season – and Álvaro Morata wrapped up another Madrid victory.
Feeling the effects of their weekend toils against Málaga CF, Madrid rang the changes and there was immediate concern for one of those replacements, forward Jesé being carried off following a challenge with Sead Kolasinac. Gareth Bale was summoned from the bench and the substitute had a significant hand in the Merengues' opener, accepting Morata's pass and crossing for Ronaldo to sweep in his 40th club goal of 2013/14.
Bale was involved again soon afterwards as Carlo Ancelotti's men sought to maintain their 100% home record in the current campaign. With Joel Matip giving up possession, the Welsh international pounced to sprint past Matip and find Morata, but the finish was scuffed wide.
A huge travelling contingent cheered the visitors on throughout the game and were rewarded when Schalke equalised in the 31st minute. Hoogland advanced and his speculative drive from distance clipped defender Sergio Ramos to wrongfoot Iker Casillas in Madrid's goal.
Entering the contest on a run of 30 matches without defeat – 25 of which had ended in wins – Madrid pressed again and were only denied early in the second half thanks to excellent work from Ralf Fährmann. The Schalke custodian was eventually beaten with 17 minutes left, Ronaldo's shot at the end of a probing forward run flashing inside the near post.
Barely 120 seconds later Schalke substitute Kyriakos Papadopoulos ceded possession and, although Morata's initial attempt was blocked by Fährmann, the Spanish Under-21 international eventually stroked in after Ronaldo's ensuing effort crashed against the crossbar and back for Bale, who squared to the youngster. Ronaldo was denied his hat-trick by the base of a post but by then the men in white were contemplating Friday's quarter-final draw.
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