FC Schalke 04 booked a UEFA Cup semi-final tie against Sevilla FC after holding off a valiant attempted fightback from PFC Levski Sofia in Gelsenkirchen, eventually prevailing with a comfortable 4-2 aggregate victory.
The Bundesliga outfit, the only former winners left in the competition, were always favourites after taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the first leg in the Bulgarian capital last week. But they were made to work hard for their semi-final place at the Arena Aufschalke, after Emil Angelov temporarily silenced the partisan home crowd midway through the first half. That still left Stanimir Stoilov's team needing to score three more and their hopes were ended when Brazilian midfielder Lincoln equalised just before the hour mark.
The goal was a long time in coming for the home side, who dominated the early stages. It took an fearless lunge from defender Zhivko Milanov to block Kevin Kuranyi's goalbound effort on seven minutes and only poor control denied Marcelo Bordon a decent opening soon after. Georgi Petkov did not have to wait long to make his first real save, however, diving to claw away Kuranyi's header and from the resulting corner Søren Larsen contrived to head wide when well placed.
It was all Schalke at this stage, but it was Levski that broke the deadlock on 24 minutes when Emil Angelov rifled in a blistering effort from ten metres after collecting Valeri Domovchiyski's pin-point centre. Asen Bukarev, an early replacement for Borislav Hristov, then hit an effort just over the crossbar, but it was to prove a rare foray into the Schalke half as the German side took command with Larsen and Levan Kobiashvili seeing efforts fly just wide before half-time.
Petkov did well to keep out a Kuranyi shot from close range after the restart and it was the German international that eventually fashioned the equaliser, flicking on for Lincoln to score in acrobatic style. It was a crucial blow to the resilient Levski team, who nonetheless continued to press. It was Schalke that came closest to finding a winner, though, and Petkov did well to deny both Larsen and substitute Hamit Altintop but to no avail as 1997 winners Schalke progressed.