Gelsenkirchen - A week that began so positively for FC Schalke 04 took a nosedive on Tuesday evening as they missed out on a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after a 3-2 home loss to Galatasaray SK.

The Royal Blues struggled to repeat the form they showed in Saturday's 2-1 win over arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund, leaving captain Benedikt Höwedes visibly frustrated at his team's elimination by "a beatable team".

"Silly goals"


"Unfortunately we were asleep in the first half and didn't get into the game properly," said the eleven-time Germany international. "I don't know myself why we didn't manage it. I'm very annoyed by the way we played." Jens Keller's men did in fact take the lead in the 17th minute through Roman Neustädter, only for "silly goals" just before half-time from Hamit Altintop and Burak Yilmaz to turn the tie in the visitors' favour.

"We didn't put in the few extra yards necessary and conceded two goals that were absolutely preventable. The first one [from Altintop] should never have gone in, because we have a clear policy on who should be covering where. A shot like that has to be blocked, simple as that," Höwedes acknowledged.

Wasted chances


An apparent misunderstanding between the skipper and goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand then led to Schalke conceding a pivotal second goal, which left them needing to find the net twice more in order to secure qualification. "It started when we lost the ball unnecessarily and under no pressure in midfield," said Höwedes. "When their long punt came forward I tried to block Yilmaz so that Timo could come out and clear. That's what he did, but unfortunately Yilmaz managed to get his foot to it."

Schalke improved after the break and a Michel Bastos equaliser in the 63rd minute rekindled the quarter-final dream of the Gelsenkirchen faithful. "We had several good chances to turn the game around but we wasted them all. It's massively disappointing, because we invested so much in the second half. Now we're out, even though we were the better team over both legs."

Salvaging the season


The Round of 16 exit ended Schalke's last hope of picking up some silverware this season, with them already out of the DFB Cup and 27 points behind leaders FC Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. "Our focus is now solely on the league," Höwedes said. "Every player wants to be involved in the Champions League and games like these against Galatasaray are a big incentive to finish at least fourth to reach the qualifying rounds."

For that to happen at the end of what has been a turbulent season for the Royal Blues, Höwedes pinpointed one overriding failing against Galatasaray that has to be addressed: "The unbending will to win was missing. We need to be more consistent in that regard."


Jon Stockitt / Questions compiled by Dietmar Nolte in Gelsenkirchen