Raul goal throws Magath lifeline

BERLIN - Schalke 04's Felix Magath will be breathing a sigh of relief after Raul, his biggest signing this season, threw the troubled coach a lifeline with an equaliser at Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Magath, whose team have floundered in the Bundesliga after being runners-up last term, has been under mounting pressure following a string of underperforming winter signings and his 10th-placed team's poor start to the year.

Even the club's bosses have been publicly questioning his wide-ranging powers at Schalke in a disappointing season that was preceded by another line of big name transfers that have largely failed to pay off.

Among them are Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, whose goals have dried up in recent months, and defender Christoph Metzelder, whose erratic form and his past with rivals Borussia Dortmund have made him anything but a crowd favourite.

Peruvian Jefferson Farfan wanted to leave in the winter and the additions of 32-year-old Iranian Ali Karimi and Greek free agent Angelos Charisteas have done little to lift spirits.

Just days before Raul's 64th minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw in their last 16, first leg tie that gave Magath a much-needed boost, the coach was asking for the fans' support through his newly-established Facebook page and a four-minute video.

At least Schalke still have a chance of tasting success in the only competition that could rescue their season.

"We have now a very good starting position for the return leg (on March 9) but we are aware that there is a huge task still in front of us," Magath told reporters. "Raul proved again today that he has lost none of his class as a player."

The 33-year-old has scored three times for Schalke in the Champions League as well as another 10 times in the Bundesliga.

"We will face a team with a high level of intensity in the second leg and we will be prepared for exactly that. We will need to play our best game if we want to advance," said Magath.