Maribor - Everything fell into place at just the right time for FC Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night.

Third in Group G at the start of play, the Royal Blues needed to win at NK Maribor and Chelsea FC to beat Sporting Clube de Portugal to secure their place in the knockout rounds for the third year running. As luck would have it, that's exactly how it went down.

'They helped us qualify'


"Of course we are happy with the result and with our qualification for the knockout stage," Schalke head coach Roberto Di Matteo told Uefa.com following his side's hard-earned 1-0 win in Slovenia. "It's a very important result for Schalke […] I'm also happy that Chelsea won and they helped us to qualify. I was sure Chelsea would win, but I was not so sure for us. I haven't been happy like tonight for a long time."

Indeed, the world of football perhaps hasn't seen an ear-to-ear smile quite like the one that was plastered across the 44-year-old's face at full time at the Ljudski vrt Stadium since the ex-Chelsea man walked away from FC Bayern München's Allianz Arena with a Champions League winners' medal around his neck in May 2012. Just as he did back then, the Italian schemer once again found a way to beat the odds and get the job done in Maribor.

'A good result for the team'


"It was a pretty tough match," admitted Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. "I think we defended well in the first half. We let them play and we wanted to create more space behind the defence. In the end we've won 1-0, we could've won 2-0 or 3-0, but 1-0 is enough […] Almost every time we play in the Champions League we get to the next round. So this is a good result for our team."

Aptly enough, it was substitute Max Meyer who delivered the knockout blow to the Slovenian minnows after 62 minutes, unaware that Chelsea were already 3-1 up by that point in west London. The 19-year-old home-grown talent has been in and out of the side in 2014/15, but remains every bit Schalke personified. His future, as Di Matteo put it - much like that of the steadily improving Knappen - "is really bright."