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Keller takes heart from Schalke loss

Schalke coach Jens Keller was pleased with his side’s display on Tuesday night, despite seeing them crash out to Real Madrid in the Champions League.

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The Royal Blues went down 3-1 in Madrid in their last-16 second leg, losing 9-2 on aggregate.

“We’re disappointed to lose, of course, but despite that I’m very pleased with my team’s performance,” Keller said, while explaining that there is no way “to completely shut down Real.”

Keller added: “The only frustrating thing was making two errors after 75 minutes that led to us conceding two goals. Nevertheless, the team reacted well after the first-leg defeat.”

The Schalke boss, who started eight academy players, four of them still under 21, in Madrid, went on to praise the 19-year old Kaan Ayhan’s Champions League debut as “very impressive.”

He was, however, left angered by captain Benedikt Hoewedes’ injury.

“Benedikt Hoewedes’ injury is frustrating. We don’t have a clear diagnosis yet and have to wait on an MRI scan,” he said. “It’s something muscular, in any case. He probably won’t be able to play against Eintracht Braunschweig.”

Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt thanked the travelling fans who made the trip to Madrid in their thousands, despite the 6-1 defeat in the first leg.

“You probably don’t find that anywhere else, our supporters are unique. It was a home game atmosphere at the Bernabeu,” he said.

Heldt then singled out the fact that eight academy players started for Schalke.

“We are proud of our outstanding work in the Knappenschmiede [Schalke’s youth academy]. That’s also our way for the future,” he said. “Many clubs talk about backing the youth players, and we just do it. We’ve got many talented players in our club.”

One of the many talents is Julian Draxler, who may have made his last Champions League appearance for the Royal Blues, with the Germany international being tipped for a summer transfer away from the club. 

“We were much better than in the first leg, but we shouldn’t have conceded those goals after half-time,” Draxler said. “We did a good job for a long time, but you could see that Real can place the ball anywhere and dominate. We’ll remember this match as a highlight and learn from it.”

The German press were also satisfied with the result, with Bild running the headline: “Thanks to [goalkeeper Ralf] Faehrmann! Schalke only drowns a bit.”

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