A 6-1 aggregate semi-final defeat may have left a sour taste but when the dust settles, FC Schalke 04 can take pride from having changed a few perceptions with their exploits in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League. This was the view of José Manuel Jurado, the German club's scorer in their 4-1 second-leg loss at Manchester United FC, who said: "It is the first time the club has got to the semi-finals and people look at Schalke differently now."
Speaking to UEFA.com, the Spanish midfielder reflected on a memorable journey to the last four, which included claiming the scalps of Valencia CF and defending champions FC Internazionale Milano in the knockout phase. "Every time we made progress [was special] and particularly the two games against Inter – they were great," Jurado said. "We have to thank the fans too for their support during the run and throughout the season, they were always there cheering us on."
Schalke's fans made themselves heard once more at Old Trafford but their hopes of seeing their team produce a feat to surpass the 5-2 win at Inter evaporated once United had extended their aggregate lead through Antonio Valencia's 26th-minute strike. "
We tried to score goals, to press higher up. We wanted to get a goal early but they got in front and it was an uphill struggle," admitted Jurado, whose goal came with Schalke already 2-0 behind.
Benedikt Höwedes, who returned to the Schalke defence after missing the first leg through injury, lamented the manner of United's breakthrough strike which came after the visitors had conceded possession cheaply just inside their own half; Darron Gibson's pass then dissected the Royal Blues' back line, leaving Valencia free to score. "We made too many mistakes, like the mistake for the first goal," Höwedes said. "It was impossible to come back. Manchester played very well today."
Jefferson Farfán, who dragged an early shot wide with the game goalless, concurred: "I think we started well, we had a chance, but we made a mistake and United took advantage and scored."
Yet Höwedes also sought to accentuate the positives for the first-time semi-finalists who began their campaign under Felix Magath before Ralf Rangick took the reins in March. "
It was very sad we lost so heavily today but overall we can be proud of our matches, [particularly what] we did against Inter. It was a very good journey this year in the Champions League."
And it is a campaign which could yet end with the Gelsenkirchen club's first piece of silverware since 2002. Looking ahead to the German Cup final against second-tier side MSV Duisburg on 21 May, Jurado said: "We have two games in the league and the final and we will focus on this game and winning a trophy – that wouldn't be a bad season." Not a bad season at all.
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