Schalke coach Huub Stevens praised his side’s spirit after a 1-0 win over Olympiacos secured their place in the Champions League knockout stages.
A long-range strike from Christian Fuchs in the 77th minute was enough to hand Schalke the three points in a tense affair at the Veltins-Arena on Wednesday, and keeps them a point clear of Arsenal on top of Group B ahead of their final match, a trip to France to meet Montpellier.
Although top place in the group is still to be decided, Stevens was delighted to book a spot in the last 16.
“We have to be satisfied with ourselves for managing to qualify for the knockout stages before all the group games have been played,” Stevens said.
“The team showed real character today, especially after the defeat by (Bayer) Leverkusen (2-0 in the Bundesliga) at the weekend. The performance wasn’t one of our best, but in the end it’s all about having secured a spot in the next round.
“Obviously I would like us to finish at the top of the group now, but that all depends on our performance in Montpellier.
“A game like today will always be a real test of your nerves.
“Reaching the next round was extremely important for the image of the club. The players will continue to develop while they are playing at this level.”
Olympiacos coach Leonardo Jardim was disappointed with his side’s exit from the Champions League but – already secure of a berth in the Europa League – is looking forward to more European football in the New Year.
“An element of good or bad luck is always present in football,” he said.
“We played a solid game in the first half, in terms of strategy and discipline. In the second half, we didn’t start that well and our opponents created some problems in our half.
“We’ve got to accept things as they are. Our primary target, to progress in the competition, has not been achieved.
“We will continue in the Europa League but first we will focus on our last match against Arsenal, because we want to leave a good impression.”