A fantastic first-half performance saw Schalke defeat Lyon 3-0 in Germany tonight to qualify for the final 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Despite the heavy defeat, the French side were in equally high spirits as Hapoel Tel-Aviv's 3-0 upset of Benfica sent both Schalke and Lyon through with a game to spare.
Although they are 15th in the Bundesliga, Schalke are now top of their UEFA Champions League group with three wins and ten points ahead of their last game against Benfica on 12 December.
"It's a nice feeling, because for weeks we have been written off, but now we will play in the knockout stage," said Schalke coach Felix Magath. "We played really well, especially in the first 30 minutes. This suggests that we have found our form again and now we need to re-focus on the Bundesliga."
After his team beat beat Werder Bremen 4-0 in the Bundesliga last Saturday, Magath believes his side look to have finally turned the corner after a disastrous start in the German league. "The opening period (against Lyon) pleased me the most. We took control of the game from the start."
"We have got some stability now and the results speak for themselves that we are improving. I am very happy we will progress, but we want to win in Lisbon to finish off the job. There is better harmony in the team now," he said.
Lyon coach Claude Puel was visibly upset by the result, despite his team booking a qualification seat. "The fact we have qualified is overshadowed by our performance," said Puel. "We were disappointing tonight and qualification does not hide our bad performance."
Goals from Jefferson Farfan and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar rewarded their side's early dominance, the latter adding a third late on. Visiting keeper Hugo Lloris was called into action early on to take a low cross from Farfan, who then failed to take advantage of Aly Cissokho's error on a counter-attack. The hosts were starting brightly in front of a noisy crowd of 60,013 in Gelsenkirchen and Huntelaar headed Farfan's corner over.
A rare Lyon attack saw Lisandro Lopez go through on goal, but Manuel Neuer's somewhat panicky punch and Benedikt Howedes' excellent subsequent tackle launched a sparkling counter-attack involving neat flicks from Farfan and Raul which ended with Lloris gathering Jurado's long-range half-volley. The Germans took a deserved lead when, after seizing on Pape Diakhate's mistake, Raul saw his shot closed down by the Senegal defender but the loose ball broke for the impressive Farfan to calmly stroke home.
Lisandro wasted a chance to equalise when defensive confusion allowed Jimmy Briand to turn the ball into his path, the Argentina international stepping inside Christoph Metzelder but failing to get sufficient power behind his shot. Neuer made a fine low save as Michel Bastos met Yoann Gourcuff's corner with a volley - and Schalke swiftly made it 2-0. Peer Kluge linked up with Jurado and produced a perfectly-weighted diagonal pass for Huntelaar to finish low past Lloris, still with only 20 minutes on the clock.
Farfan was booked for diving - earning a suspension - after going over Lloris' challenge and the France keeper then had to back-pedal sharply to tip over the irrepressible Raul's instinctive long-range lob. Lyon introduced forward Bafetimbi Gomis in place of Cissokho at the interval and Michel Bastos' cross flashed dangerously across the box early in the second period. Jurado shot over before Metzelder's challenge saw Gourcuff depart on a stretcher after lengthy treatment to his ankle. Miralem Pjanic was his replacement and the Bosnia and Herzegovina international soon lashed a free-kick wide from nearly 40 yards.
Edu replaced Farfan and marked his arrival by flattening Michel Bastos, the free-kick leading to another chance wasted by the ineffective Lisandro. Kallstrom failed to connect properly with an acrobatic but hopelessly ambitious volley before lively youngster Jeremy Pied replaced Lisandro.
The Sweden midfielder went closer with a 35-yard drive which Neuer bizarrely slid and sidefooted wide before Jeremy Toulalan, after a number of physical challenges, was booked for sliding in late on Jurado. Huntelaar's well-struck drive was held at the second attempt by Lloris but the Holland frontman was not to be denied his second as his shot deflected off Anthony Reveillere to leave Lloris helpless. Pied flashed a volley wide and Neuer saved from Gomis as Lyon were denied a late consolation.