After scoring the first goal and creating the second to help FC Schalke 04 seal a 2-1 second-leg win against holders FC Internazionale Milano, Raúl González said it was "hugely satisfying" to be part of a side through to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time.
Although a three-time winner of the famous trophy, Raúl had not reached the last four of the competition in eight years. Like his former club Real Madrid CF, however, the striker – who left the Liga giants last summer – is now back at the tournament's business end after turning in a display that earned him the Player Rater Top Player honours on UEFA.com.
"It's nice to be man of the match, but the most important thing is that we've reached the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time," the 33-year-old Raúl told UEFA.com. "We have won twice against the reigning European champions. We were the better side in both games and now we face a really complicated semi-final against Manchester United. We have to get it out of our heads that we are playing a big team like United and believe that we can reach the final, even though we won't be favourites."
With Schalke 5-2 up from the first leg in Milan, the quarter-final was effectively over as soon as Raúl latched on to José Manuel Jurado's pass on the stroke of half-time, rounded Júlio César and scored his 71st goal in Europe's premier club competition. Following Thiago Motta's equaliser, he then helped his side complete a 7-3 aggregate victory with a clever through ball to defender Benedikt Höwedes nine minutes from time.
"I won the ball in midfield after a good tackle, kept running upfield and Raúl played a perfect pass to me," said match-winner Höwedes, still beaming an hour after the final whistle. "At first, I wanted to chip the keeper because he was so far off his line, but I was running too quickly and couldn't sort out my feet, so I just hammered the ball and I'm just relieved it looked like it was a lethal finish.
"We have overachieved, got further than anyone expected and we have played two great matches against Inter, matches which nobody expected us to dominate. We won't be favourites in the next round either but we will throw ourselves into these matches and try to make something happen."
With Raúl in his form, United are unlikely to take Schalke lightly in their last-four jousts on 26 April and 4 May. "It's incredible – a great moment," added the former Spain forward, one of a raft of squad additions last summer. "It's great to be part of this team. With so many new players having arrived, to find ourselves rubbing shoulders with the best three teams in Europe is hugely satisfying. We will try to enjoy this situation but we know we'll have to work hard over the next two weeks to prepare for the semi-finals."
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