Europa League: Hanover waltz through, Schalke recover | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 15.03.2012
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Europa League: Hanover waltz through, Schalke recover

Hanover and Schalke both netted four goals at home on Thursday en route to berths in the last eight of the Europa League. Schalke, however, struggled to overcome stout opposition from FC Twente.

Two German sides reached the quarterfinals of the Europa League on Thursday, with Hanover eliminating Standard Liege and Schalke coming from behind to beat FC Twente.

Mirko Slomka's Hanover are relative minnows among Germany's European contenders, but the "Hanseaten" had more than enough in the tank to deal with Belgian visitors Standard Liege on Thursday.

Hanover won the second leg 4-0, after drawing 2-2 in Belgium one week ago. The score-line might not have been emphatic, but Hanover established their lead early and never looked like relinquishing it, while Standard Liege ultimately finished the match with just 10 players on the pitch.

The first three goals, however, were more reminiscent of a pinball machine than a well-oiled soccer side.

Norwegian international striker Mohammed Abdellaoue opened the scoring for Hanover after just four minutes, converting a Jan Schlaudraff cross that was only half-cleared by Liege goalkeeper Sinan Bolat.

Cursed Kanu

Hanover's next came on 21 minutes, courtesy of Liege's Brazilian defender Kanu. Seeking to clear a dangerous Sergio Pinto cross, Kanu connected with his shin and diverted the ball into his own net, effectively putting the tie to bed.

Liege's Serge Gakpe is awarded the red card by referee Pavel Kralovec

Liege played on with 10 men after Serge Gakpe was awarded a red card

And the unfortunate Kanu was credited with a second own goal on 73 minutes, after striker Didier Ya Konan inexplicably failed to finish when played clean through the Liege back line. Ya Konan's first shot was blocked by Bolat, and his second ricocheted off a pair of Liege defenders, finally striking Kanu's left shoulder en route to goal.

Ya Konan turned provider in the more traditional sense for Hanover's fourth in second half stoppage time, putting Sergio Pinto through down the inside right channel. From a tough angle, Pinto rifled the ball into the bottom corner with his right foot to complete the 4-0 rout.

Thursday's win was a welcome reprieve for Hanover, who lost 3-0 to league rivals Werder Bremen in a key Bundesliga fixture last weekend. Hanover currently sit seventh in the table, with the top six league sides qualifying for European competition next season.

Hunting down Twente

Schalke, meanwhile, had a mountain to climb 15 minutes into their second leg game against FC Twente. Having already lost the away fixture in the Netherlands 1-0, the Royal Blues got off to a nightmare start when Twente deconstructed their back line down the left-hand channel. Nacer Chadli fed midfielder Willem Jansen, who fired home from the edge of the area.

Suddenly trailing 2-0 on aggregate, Schalke needed three unanswered goals against an in-form team fighting for the Eredivisie league title in the Netherlands.

Willem Janssen (14) of Enschede scores the 1-0 against Schalke's Lewis Holtby, keeper Timo Hildebrand and Julian Draxler (from left) during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and Twente Enschede at Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 15 March 2012. Photo: Bernd Thissen dpa/lnw +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Janssen's early opener looked like another nail in Schalke's coffin

Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who had missed the first leg for Schalke, sought a penalty mid-way through the first half but the referee deemed that there was no contact, handing him a yellow card instead. Huntelaar's frustration, however, was short lived.

Moments later, the Schalke top-scorer leveled the score with a back post header, thanks to some great work down the left wing by teen sensation Julian Draxler.

Climbing the mountain

It was in the second half that Schalke were able to definitively turn the tide in their favor. Huntelaar added a second for Schalke from the penalty spot shortly before the hour mark, with Draxler again the provider - of sorts. It was Draxler's shot that Twente scorer Janssen blocked with his hand in the box, conceding a penalty for Schalke.

The decisive goal fell thanks to a bit of magic from Spanish veteran Raul. The former Real Madrid legend mustered all his experience to play a fine backheel inside the box to US international Jermaine Jones, who was able to turn and bundle the ball home with his left foot.

Schalke's Klaas Jan Huntelaar (R) scores the 1-1 for his team against goalie Nikolay Mihaylov (L) during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and Twente Enschede at Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 15 March 2012. Photo: Friso Gentsch dpa/lnw +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Hat trick-hero Huntelaar missed the first leg, but certainly made amends

With less than 20 minutes remaining in the second leg, Schalke were for the first time on course to qualify for the quarterfinals. Twente, by no means a defensive-minded side at the best of times, started throwing caution to the wind in a bid to get back into the game - leaving themselves open to more Schalke counterattacks.

Huntelaar had a golden opportunity to put the tie beyond any doubt and score his hat trick on 75 minutes, shooting unmarked with his left foot from right in front of goal - but Twente keeper Nicolaj Mihajlov got down well and parried the ball.

Five minutes later, the über-prolific Dutchman banged in his third, capping a swift Schalke breakaway with an emphatic left-footed finish from close range. Huntelaar has been in clinical form for Schalke in European and domestic competition alike, averaging almost a goal per game for the Royal Blues this season.

Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Andrew Bowen