Schalke moved a significant step closer to their first ever European Cup semi-final in an astonishing match which saw them trailing Internazionale after 25 seconds only to have racked up five away goals with 15 minutes to and effectively secure a semi-final against Chelsea or Manchester United.
“Had someone told us before the match that we would win at Inter by a three-goal margin we would have said they were crazy,” said Ralf Rangnick, the Scahlke coach who added that it was the most “beautiful game” of his career.
If Inter are to continue their defence of the trophy it will be a bigger ask than in last month’s round of 16, when they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich before a 3‑2 away win saw them become only the second side to progress in the Champions League knockout rounds after losing the home leg.
It had all started so well, moreover, Dejan Stankovic meeting the Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s headed clearance with an imperious volley from near halfway to put the home side one up.
Schalke, victors over Valencia in the round of 16 and unbeaten since losing at Lyon in the first group game, were level after Júlio César could only push the ball as far as Joel Matip, who knocked it in, but Diego Milito side-footed home for his first goal in the competition since getting the winner in the 2010 final. That was as good as it got for them, however, Edu reacting quickest after the goalkeeper parried his initial deflected effort and guiding the ball into the net to make it 2-2 at half-time.
Second-half efforts from Raúl, his 70th Champions League goal, an own goal from the unfortunate Andrea Ranocchia and a second from Edu, who turned on the edge of the penalty area and smashed the ball home, sparked a mass exodus of Inter fans, who had seen their team harshly reduced to 10 men in the 62nd minute, when Martin Atkinson showed Cristian Chivu a second yellow card for a foul.
“I don’t know what happened. I cannot explain it,” said the Inter captain Javier Zanetti. “We started well and then there was a total black-out. We are tranquil, we have to stay positive and must look ahead now. Lets think about the league and then we will go to Germany to play for it.”