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Galatasaray shows heart of a champion against Schalke

The Lions thus reached the last eight of the lucrative and prestigious Champions League for the second time; the first was in 2001. The Lions had their backs against the wall going into the return leg after the first leg in İstanbul's Türk Telekom Arena on Feb. 20 ended 1-1. Fatih Terim's Lions therefore needed to beat Schalke or draw 2-2 or higher and advance on the away goals rule. There were big question marks over Galatasaray's form after the Lions had gone winless in two straight domestic games -- escaping with a 0-0 away draw against Eskişehirspor the weekend before last and losing 1-0 at home to Ankara's Gençlerbirliği on Friday evening. Schalke, meanwhile, was in top form having beaten defending Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Ruhr derby on Saturday, even though the side was missing Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who suffered a severe injury in that match. Moreover, Schalke was undefeated in the Champions League this season.

But Galatasaray, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup champion in 2000, belongs to Europe and plays differently in European matches. The Lions therefore took the game to Schalke immediately after kickoff.

Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba shot wide from outside the area in the fifth minute, and he then saw a fierce left-foot effort palmed away by Schalke's former Germany international keeper Timo Hildebrand one minute later after Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder slipped the ball to him on the left. Hildebrand also did well to stop Selcuk İnan's shot from a narrow angle after Drogba played him through.

Schalke's opening goal by Ukrainian-born Germany defensive midfielder Roman Neustadter came against the run of play, the 25-year-old firing home from close range after the Lions failed to clear a corner in the 17th minute.

But never-say-die Galatasaray continued to press and turned the game around in a dramatic four-minute spell. The Lions got the equalizer in the 37th from former Schalke man Hamit Altıntop, who played for the German team from 2003-07. Hamit scored with a 30-meter shot that grazed the post and went into the back of the net to make the score 1-1.

This was Hamit's first goal for Galatasaray this season, but the Germany-born Turkey winger had hit the woodwork seven times in all competitions -- including three in the UEFA Champions League and two against Gençlerbirliği on Friday. Interestingly, though, his shot on Tuesday hit the post before going in.

Hamit was a happy man, but he refused to gloat after breaking the goalpost jinx. “I don't want to put unnecessary pressure on myself and make myself sad,” he said.

“Looking back on my career, I am not a player who scores many goals. I want to score and place myself in goal scoring positions. But our paramount mission here was to advance, and we are celebrating because we had the strength to accomplish this feat. Therefore I am happy, my teammates are happy and above our fans and our club are happy,” he noted.

Burak nets eight in eight matches

Star striker Burak Yılmaz, the co-top scorer in the domestic Super League with 14 goals, put Galatasaray 2-1 ahead in the 41st minute. Former Spain winger Albert Riera slid in and his long clearance found Burak, who outran Germany defender Benedikt Höwedes before kicking the ball over Hildebrand.

This was Burak's eighth goal in eight Champions League matches and he is the top scorer in the European premier club competition so far along with Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. Barca's Lionel Messi, who netted two against AC Milan on Tuesday, has scored seven.

Schalke upped the tempo in the second half and Brazil left winger Michel Bastos leveled in the 64th minute for the host following a goalmouth scramble.

Jens Keller's men then pushed forward in a desperate need for a goal that would send them through. But the hunter became the hunted as late substitute striker Umut Bulut, who came on in place of Burak in the 85th, scored the Galatasaray match winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time. The super sub beat Hildebrand in a one-on-one situation after receiving a perfect pass from Drogba following a swift counterattack. And the final score was Schalke 2, Galatasaray 3.

“We are now among the best eight teams in Europe. The whole of Turkey and Galatasaray fans should celebrate this triumph. I thank all the fans for making sacrifices to come to Germany and watch us. I also want to congratulate all my players,” he added.

Yes, indeed, the whole of Turkey and Galatasaray fans celebrated this victory in scenes of wild delight. Those in İstanbul went to the club's Florya Metin Oktay facilities where they danced and chanted songs of glory until the early hours of Wednesday.

“We did not play well in the first half and lost the game in this half,” lamented Schalke's Keller, who took a swipe at Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson, who ruined the match for both teams with his controversial calls and non-calls.

“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them,” American satirical novelist Joseph Heller wrote.

And Mr. Eriksson, if we may add, belongs to the second category -- achieving mediocrity after Tuesday's horrendous refereeing.

The draw for the last eight will be made on Friday, with Barca, Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund already through along with Galatasaray.

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