Gelsenkirchen (Germany), April 21 (IANS) FC Schalke 04 won the second leg 3-2 but were still knocked out as two away goals were enough to earn the ten-man Ajax Amsterdam a 4-3 win on aggregate in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League.
Ajax had one foot in the semi-finals as they led 2-0 after the first leg in Amsterdam. Schalke scored through Leon Goretzka (53rd minute) and Guido Burgstaller (56th minute) in the second half here on Thursday night to wipe out the deficit and push the issue into extra time.
Daniel Caligiuri (101st minute) scored in the first half of extra time to give the hosts a 3-0 lead, but Ajax scored twice through Nick Viergever and Amin Younes to enter the last four stage, reports Xinhua news agency.
Ajax will make their first appearance in a European semi-final in 20 years, while Schalke can now fully focus on their domestic duties.
Schalke took control from the kick off and came close to open the scoring with just two minutes played as Max Meyer’s effort rattled the right post.
Ajax worked out their first opportunity 22 minutes into the game when Nick Viergever tested Schalke goalkeeper Ralf Faehrmann with an overhead kick from close range.
Both sides created chances in the first half, but lacked the accuracy needed to break the deadlock before half-time.
The hosts had a bright start in the second half as Leon Goretzka finished off a counterattack following Ajax’ corner from the edge of the box to mark the opener in the 53rd minute.
Schalke scored their second goal when Sead Kolasinac’s cross found Guido Burgstaller, who volleyed home to double the lead just three minutes later.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors from Holland as Joel Veltman received his marching orders for repeated foul play in the 80th minute.
Markus Weinzierl’s men made use of their numerical advantage and tripled the lead in extra time as Daniel Caligiuri nodded home Kolasinac’s cross at the far post in the 101st minute to set the course for the semi-final.
Nevertheless, Ajax had the last laugh as Nick Viergever utilized a loose ball to slot home into the roof of the net to reduce the arrears. Due to the away goal by the visitor’s things changed, as Schalke needed another goal to progress.
Schalke wobbled and were unable to respond, whereas Ajax Amsterdam kept it bowling as Amin Younes sealed the deal after putting the ball past Ralf Faehrmann in the dying seconds of extra time.
“We will need a couple of days to digest this elimination. My players gave everything but it wasn’t enough in the end. We should have protected our lead to the end but I can’t fault my team,” Schalke head coach Markus Weinzierl said.
“I am very proud of my team. We did not stage the best performance but yet we reached the semi-finals,” Ajax Amsterdam coach Peter Bosz said.
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