José Manuel Jurado pointed to the contribution of compatriot Raúl González as a crucial factor in FC Schalke 04's triumph after the German club won 2-1 at SL Benfica to secure first place in Group B.
Attacking midfielder Jurado gave Felix Magath's men a 19th-minute lead in Lisbon after Raúl found him in space with a beautifully cushioned chest pass. When defender Benedikt Höwedes struck his second goal in two games – and Schalke's 200th in UEFA competition – in the 81st minute the successful conclusion to the Bundesliga side's group stage campaign was confirmed, although a late Luisão effort had Schalke hanging on.
Raúl, of course, is better known for his UEFA Champions League goals – the former Real Madrid CF forward has 68 of them – yet his team-mate was more than happy to benefit from the 33-year-old's altruism on this occasion. "When the ball reached Raúl, he gave me a little look," former Club Atlético de Madrid player Jurado said. "His touch allowed me to get my shot off."
By qualifying for the round of 16, Schalke have matched their achievement on their last UEFA Champions League appearance in 2007/08 when they got to the quarter-finals. Nonetheless Jurado believes there is room for improvement. "We're going to take it one game at a time," the 24-year-old said. "The team is coming together so hopefully we can string some wins together."
Having endured a difficult start to their domestic campaign, last year's Bundesliga runners-up are grateful for the opportunity to be able to concentrate on matters at home following a job well done in Europe. "
We're very happy to have clinched the victory and got first place in the group," Jurado said. "By getting this win we can go on and think about our next games in the Bundesliga."
Benfica's Javier Saviola, meanwhile, reflected on what might have been as his side dominated possession in the Portuguese capital without fully capitalising. The match arguably represented their Group B efforts in microcosm. "We had chances without making the most of them," he admitted. "But we're in the Europa League, and that was the aim at the start [of the game]."
The Argentinian forward now hopes Benfica will be able to meet the challenge of the UEFA Europa League, having advanced to the competition's quarter-finals last term. "The expectations will be big," he said. "We're in a European competition with some strong teams who've come out of the Champions League. But the best thing for us is that we're still in Europe. There's lots of good competition ahead and we're aiming to get to the final."
Looking back on the Portuguese champions' shortcomings in the UEFA Champions League, however, Saviola underscored their patchy away form. "
We were strong in the home games, but in the away games we could have played more calmly and more with our heads," he said.
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