Kuranyi keeps Schalke focused
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Kevin Kuranyi felt FC Schalke 04 had taken "a big step towards a quarter-final place" after beating FC Porto, but pointed out that the job is nowhere near finished.
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Kevin Kuranyi insisted that FC Schalke 04 had taken "a big step towards a quarter-final place" after beating FC Porto 1-0 thanks in no small part to only their second clean sheet in nine games – a fact seemingly not lost on any of the team.
Kuranyi struck the only goal in the fourth minute in Gelsenkirchen, just reward for an impressive first-half showing by the home side, and although the Portuguese visitors came back into the game in the second period, Schalke will take a narrow lead into the second leg on 5 March. "You could see throughout the game that we had the will to win," said the 25-year-old forward. "We played very well in the first half, built a lot of pressure and created many chances. It was more difficult in the second half but we kept things tight at the back and this was a big step towards a quarter-final place."
Schalke have not found it easy keeping things tight at the back of late, and going into the game they had successfully kept out opponents just once in eight previous competitive outings. It has led to criticism of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in some quarters but coach Mirko Slomka leapt to his defence before this UEFA Champions League game, and the 21-year-old repaid that confidence. "In the first half, I didn't have much to do because we were well organised and, though Porto had chances in the second period, we held on to keep a clean sheet," said the Schalke No1. "We're now in a good position. In Porto, it will be important to keep another clean sheet and we have a good chance of progressing to the last eight."
The only Porto smiles on show last night came when a group of the players emerged after their kitman and his heavily-laden trolley failed to negotiate a precarious slope outside the dressing room, but they did have chances to level on the night. Lisandro López went closest, somehow skewing Ricardo Quaresma's low cross over the bar from close range late on, though Kuranyi insists that being close is not good enough. "At the end of the day, we kept a clean sheet and scored a goal so we have a good chance of going through," he said. "If we play like this in Porto, we will do it. However, we cannot relax and let our foot off the gas. We have to remain focused."