The sensation became official on Wednesday, March 2, at 22:22.56 hrs. FC Schalke 04 and MSV Duisburg will meet in the German Football Association, DFB, Cup Final at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on May 21. The battle for the trophy will be a Ruhr Region derby. Schalke put paid to last year’s champions FC Bayern Munich in the second semi-final. Spanish star Raul scored the decisive goal in the encounter between the German Champions League participants with a header after 15 minutes at Allianz Arena in Munich. German international goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was the backbone for the “Royal Blues”. The 24-year-old calmly and expertly saved all shots from the Bayern players, ignoring massive protests by many Munich fans who oppose his possible signing for Bayern, and played a major part in defending their lead with his 10 team-mates. In the end they achieved this without major problems posed by the disappointing Bavarians. The first semi-final the previous evening, between Second Division clubs Duisburg and Energie Cottbus, was far more dramatic in the dying minutes and ended with a 2-1 victory for the “Zebras”.
“That’s very disappointing, it’s very bitter”, said Munich captain Philipp Lahm about the second Bayern defeat at home within four days. The Bavarians buried their last remaining hopes of successfully defending the German championship when they lost 3-1 to Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on the previous Saturday. “We now desperately need to finish second in the Bundesliga and make it through to the next round in the Champions League against Inter Milan”, added Lahm. Coach Louis van Gaal was stony-faced. The Championship gone, the Cup blown – last year’s double cannot be repeated. And it is most unlikely that the team can achieve the big triumph in the Champions League this season -- too weak in defence, too harmless in attack - as proven by Dortmund and Schalke - if Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry are successfully marked.
Schweinsteiger loses form – Bayern bosses apologise to Neuer
“It is possible that the 1-0 win at Inter Milan in the first leg of the knock-out stage in the Champions League has been overestimated”, said former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, appearing as an expert with the public German TV channel ARD, going on to criticise the tactics of the fallen DFB Cup champions. “It was due to goalkeeper Thomas Kraft’s excellent performance that Munich won in Milan. FC Bayern play relatively simple. Schalke did not have to contribute much to the game in order to win”. The Gelsenkirchen club enjoyed the triumph, however. The German runners-up can only decisively enhance their so far medium season if they defeat MSV Duisburg in Berlin in their twelfth final appearance, and thus ensure a place in the Europa League. “I have never thought I would finally experience Berlin”, rejoiced defender Christoph Metzelder. “I think I have been eliminated in the first round of the DFB Cup more often than any other player”. The former international admitted that Schalke did not play great football. “It was clear that we wouldn’t play hurrah football”.
Coach Felix Magath reservedly enjoyed the triumph which, unlike van Gaal at Bayern, takes him out of the firing line. “We did not do enough for the game in the second half, we simply defended at the back”, Magath said. Just like his Dortmund colleague Juergen Klopp, he sustained a small injury to his left eye when he lost his glasses during the celebrating scrum. But Magath took it without complaint. His eleven were the better and more dangerous team in the first half, setting up some excellent chances to score. Schalke played tactically and with discipline. As against Dortmund it was very obvious in the Bayern team that Bastian Schweinsteiger has suddenly experienced a drop in form. The Bavarian professional, who performed brilliantly for a whole year, again committed several bad mistakes, while attackers Robben, Ribéry, Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller also failed to click.
The Bayern bosses Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge apologised after the match for the campaign and somewhat rude abuse by the Munich fans against Neuer. Since van Gaal had announced that the Schalke goalkeeper was on his radar as a possible signing, the Bayern supporters stirred up their opposition to Neuer. “During the match I looked at the ball and didn’t read any posters”, said the international goalkeeper, who has a contract with Schalke until 2012 but is also being courted by Manchester United and other clubs.
Duisburg’s dream comes true: Fourth participation in the final
Twenty four hours previously the blue-white Duisburg fans had ardently sung the popular Cup hit “Berlin, Berlin, we’ll travel to Berlin”. Coach Milan Sasic was as pleased as Punch: “A dream has come true for us”. When the “Zebras” had galloped into the final, the celebrations were as if they had already triumphed. But even if FC Bayern had made it there would still have been the chance that Duisburg could qualify for the Europa League even if they lost in Berlin – if Munich qualified for the Champions League. However, all ifs and buts were put to rest with the 1-0 victory of Duisburg’s neighbours, just 30km away in the Ruhr Region. After three defeats in the final, the last against FC Bayern in 1998, Duisburg finally want to be victorious. Not only MSV Duisburg goalkeeping coach Olli Reck, sacked by Schalke 20 months ago, would be pleased.
The match against Cottbus became exciting when Duisburg came under extreme pressure after Bruno Soares had been sent off and Nils Petersen scored from the penalty spot (78th minute). Uwe Huenemeier headed the ball goalwards in the 90th minute and immediately celebrated. “The ball was in”, said the Energie defender, who had made a glaring error when Stephan Maierhofer scored for the lead (24th). Left defender Olivier Veigneau saved Huenemeier’s effort on the line with incredible reaction in the air, then Jiayi Shao hit the right post with the rebound. Duisburg achieved final victory, Cottbus were ousted just like FC Bayern.