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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Schalke 04 Shuffle the Deck by Ken Sweda

by Ken Sweda for World Football Commentaries

Inter Milan v Schalke 04 by DeezRed77

While American sports fanatics celebrate the end of the NCAA basketball season, one that saw the traditional March Madness become madder than ever with upset after upset, soccer fans got a little taste of madness themselves.

In a shocking result from the first Champions League Round of Eight matchday, Schalke ’04 of the Bundesliga turned an early (as in 30 second) 1-0 deficit on its head, streaking back for a compelling 5-2 dismantling of reigning CL champs Internazionale Milano at their home ground, the San Siro.

Stankovic Gave Inter Early Lead

The opening goal by the men in Inter Milan jerseys was shocking in itself, in both its timing and execution. Dejan Stankovic of Inter took a necessary but dicey headed clearance by Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer on the full volley, and in a moment of mad genius, first-timed a 45-yard sidewinder that flew directly over and past Neuer into the yawning Schalke net. A finer and more audacious goal, and start, would be hard to replicate under such pressing circumstances.

But, if this was supposed to stun Schalke into submission, they soon showed, as is oft said, that they had left the script in the dressing room. More precisely, though, Schalke’s newly appointed manager Ralf Rangnick, might not have been given the script in the first place. He had only been with the team mere days at the time of the match, owing to Schalke’s sacking of prior manager Felix Magath for a continued bland showing this domestic season. Indeed, paperwork does have a way of disappearing under changes in administration.

Equalizer by Matip

Schalke quickly steadied the ship and began immediately to press the pace, eventually drawing level in the 17th on a Joel Matip goal resulting from a goal mouth scramble off a corner kick. The sides traded possession and opportunites until Diego Milito sent Inter ahead again in the 34th, volleying in the soccer ball off a classy knock-down header from Esteban Cambiasso.

Inter, playing at home, clearly played to extend their lead going into halftime; however, as has been the case under Leonardo’s tenure, their backline was left exposed and paid the price.

In the 40th, Edu’ was released into the right side of Inter’s penalty area and released a low driven shot that was deflected by a sliding Christian Chivu, forcing a brilliantly dynamic adjustment save from Julio Cesar. The keeper, unfortunately, clawed the ball right back into Edu’s path, and the Schalke player flicked a left-footed half-volley by Cesar just inside the post.

This late first half goal proved to be just the incentive Schalke needed, as they came out in the second half confident and relaxed, knowing they now had 2 away goals.

Raul's 70th UCL Goal

That confidence and composure allowed them to press Inter still further, but just after half time it was Inter who had the first convincing chance, as a long ball over the top to a racing Milito brought him into the Schalke penalty area with only Neuer to beat.

Milito pushed the ball wide, and reacted with head in hands, immediately recognizing the importance of the lost chance. A quick cut and strike from Samuel Eto’o in the 49th, artfully turned away by Neuer, simply provided the proof that it wasn’t going to be Inter’s day.

Milito’s reaction in particular would prove sentient. In the 53rd minute, Schalke’s Raul put away what would be the winning goal, and the one that would fully extract the remaining wind from Inter’s collective sail. Raul’s skillful take on the turn and cool finish recalled memories of his finest days at Real Madrid.

An own goal by Andrea Ranocchia in the 57th, and Chivu’s cynical challenge and second yellow at the 61 minute mark, signaled Inter’s total capitulation. Edu’s second goal in the 75th, a turn and shoot effort from just outside the box, the final statement of Inter’s predicament.

Does Inter Have a Chance Next Week?

The return leg next Wednesday will undoubtedly be an open affair since Inter are as potent as any club. But no doubt we’ll see the same lack of stoutness in their rear guard unless Leonardo can dream up a new ending to this Elite Eight matchup.

Madness indeed, but a breath of fresh air.

About the Author

Ken Sweda was born and raised in the Chicago area. He played soccer in his youth after being introduced to the sport through Dutch cousins in 1974. Ken now runs his own private skills training business called Precision Soccer Skills LLC. He has two young daughters that are following in his footsteps by playing the beautiful game themselves.

Ken also writes freelance soccer articles and is currently affiliated with Soccerpro.com. He is also available for direct assignments as well.

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1 comment:

Steve Amoia said...

Ken, thank you for the excellent commentary. It was a great performance by Schalke.

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