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Friday, April 15, 2011

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Set for semis: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo scores the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Tottenham in the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night. Real advanced 5-0 on aggregate. AP PHOTO

Real Madrid, Schalke make semis

AP

LONDON — Real Madrid and Schalke easily avoided any miraculous comebacks in the Champions League quarterfinals Wednesday, following up their massive first-leg victories with more modest wins to advance to the last four.

Schalke beat defending champion Inter Milan 2-1 at home, advancing 7-3 on aggregate following its stunning victory last week in Italy.

Madrid never looked likely to give up its 4-0 advantage over Tottenham from the first leg, and a second-half howler from Spurs goalkeeper Huerelho Gomes allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to score the only goal in a 1-0 win for the Spanish club at White Hart Lane.

Madrid will face archrival Barcelona in the semifinals, while Schalke takes on Manchester United.

While United is heavily favored against the German club, the matchup of the two Spanish powers is far more intriguing. It also sets up four "clasico" matches in 18 days, with Madrid and Barcelona also squaring off in the league and King's Cup final.

"Let's see what happens," Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said. "A semi is a semi and anything can happen."

While Inter may have held out faint hope of overturning its deficit, Raul Gonzalez all but snuffed it out when he gave Schalke the lead in the 44th minute, leaving the Italians needing five goals to advance. While Thiago Motta equalized for Inter in the 49th, Benedikt Hoewedes completed the surprising rout by netting the winner in the 81st as Schalke reached its first Champions League semifinal.

"What can you say, we really won it last week," Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick said. "We defended very well tonight, we allowed maybe two chances. We could have won (bigger) again if you count all the chances."

At White Hart Lane, Madrid soaked up early pressure from Tottenham, which had a goal disallowed for offside and a penalty appeal waved off in the first half.

Ronaldo then deflated the hosts when he sent a swerving shot from nearly 30 meters that went straight at Gomes, who fumbled a routine catch and watched the ball go over his shoulder before bouncing slowly over the line.

The mistake was so glaring that even Madrid goalkeeper Ikar Casillas just sadly shook his head in sympathy rather than celebrate the goal.

It was Ronaldo's 40th goal of the season, and left Tottenham playing only to salvage some pride.

Striker Roman Pavlyuchenko had a chance to equalize in the 58th when Rafael van der Vaart picked out the Russian with a cross into the area, but his header went high. Jermain Defoe then tested Casillas with a hard shot from outside the area in the 63rd, forcing the Spain goalkeeper to dive low and deflect the ball out for a corner, but the result was never in doubt.

"We lost it to a better team but we're disappointed to go out," Tottenham winger Gareth Bale said.

The loss ended Tottenham's first campaign in the Champions League, and the club now faces a tough task to finish in the top four in the Premier League to earn another spot next season. Spurs are in fifth place, with seven games remaining, three points behind Manchester City but with a game in hand.



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