Felix Magath was a relieved man after watching his Schalke side come from behind to defeat Valencia 3-1 and earn a place in the last eight of the Champions League.
Trailing 1-0 on the night to a Ricardo Costa goal and 2-1 overall, Jefferson Farfán and Mario Gavranovic scored either side of half-time to put the hosts in front, but the tie remained in the balance until Forfan added a second in injury time.
“I think at the beginning the (1-1) result from the first leg was a burden for us,” admitted Magath. “We were not aggressive enough, that’s why Valencia could raise their game. After we conceded it got better as we had nothing to lose anymore. Then we fought back, but the situation was quite dicey and I would have liked Jefferson [Farfán] to score the [third] goal earlier.
“Such games in the Champions League, when it’s all or nothing, are always stressful. A 1-1 in the first leg suggests that you are in the next round with a goalless draw.
” It was difficult to create pressure from the beginning but after we conceded we had nothing to lose and then we had to. We had Manuel Neuer and a bit of luck, but that’s what you need in order to reach the next round. The air gets thinner the higher you get, but we take it as it comes.”
The result enabled Magath to shrug off rumours of his impending departure from the club. Reports in Germany on Wednesday claimed that Schalke had already decided to part company with Magath in the summer.
“We don’t need to take any notice of the speculation,” he said. “The truth is on the pitch. Nobody has spoken to me and I still have a contract until 2013 so this is not even an issue.
“We have shown that we find it easier to play against teams who are technically strong. I am proud that we have been able to knock out a top Spanish side.”
The Liga team’s coach, Unai Emery, was dejected by the nature of their elimination, feeling that the result was unjust.
“It’s so disappointing,” he said. “With everything in our favour we managed to throw it all away. It’s incomprehensible. At 0-1 we had the game under control with chances to counterattack, and then they go and equalise.
“In the second half, without hardly creating a chance, they go 2-1 up. We then have four chances and don’t take any of them. We’ve lost unjustly; we let an opportunity slip from our grasp when everything was in our favour.
“I went back into the dressing room so down that I couldn’t say anything to the players, but in reality I can’t hold them responsible for anything. In a game where we had more chances than ever, we lost. I must also recognise the great performance their goalkeeper [Manuel Neuer] put in. We can’t talk of bad luck tonight; we needed to be assertive and we weren’t.”