Bayern Munich will be facing Schalke 04 in the German Cup final on May 28. In a hard-fought match at Arminia Bielefeld, Felix Magath's side comes out luckily on top, 2-0.
Bayern goalscorer Ballack, left, points the way to Berlin
For Bayern Munich, a good start and a good end frequently suffice in winning a match. What happens in between, well, sometimes it is just holding on for your life. This was the case on Wednesday night when an early goal by Michael Ballack and a late penalty kick by Roy Makaay sent the Bavarians into the final of the German Cup against this season's nemesis, Schalke 04.
It took only three minutes for Munich to register the first goal.
Munich's Michael Ballack's early goal may not have opened the floodgates but his early goal set the tone in the Cup semi-final
Michael Ballack leaped over the masses in the penalty box to nod in a corner from fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger to shock the sell-out crowd at Bielefeld's Schüco Arena.
"The early goal was vital," said Ballack. "We were not at our best but we are in the final and that is all I care about."
Arminia on the offensive
It did not take long for Bielefeld to recover from the early blow. South African striker Delron Buckley, who later would stir up trouble with referee Markus Merk, just failed to tie up the match three minutes later when he let a ball get away from him in the goal box. The shot he did muster, was no problem for Bayern and international keeper Oliver Kahn. But as the first half wore on, the game's coarseness increased with numerous unfriendly challenges.
Bielefeld's Albanian Fatmir Vata, left, fights for the ball with Munich's Ze Roberto. Roberto's substitution into the match stopped the Arminia wave in the second half
In the second half, the home side increased the pressure. Kahn proved that he is still the best at his trade, at least in Germany, with two spectacular parries in the first 20 minutes of the second half as his team let Arminia come at them unhindered.
When Magath sent Ze Roberto in from the bench in the 67th minute, the match turned around in favor of the Bavarians. Only the solid work of Bielefeld keeper Mathias Hain gave Bielefeld a chance of coming up with the equalizer. Instead, their star striker Buckley would have a not so friendly encounter with referee Markus Merk.
90 minutes all-out normal for Bayern
As the game reached the 90th minute, Bielefeld showed signs of fatigue while Bayern plodded on, untroubled by the sometimes rough play in the match. Four minutes into stoppage time, Claudio Pizarro collided with Benjamin Lense in the box and referee Merk pointed at the penalty spot.
The decision sent Buckley into a rage. He pushed Merk in protest and was promptly sent off the pitch. Once the dust settled, Makaay deposited the ball into the net. 2-0 for Bayern.
Time for revenge
Schalke won both this season's meetings against Bayern Munich. Here, Lincoln celebrates his game-winning strike in the March 13 match
Although Bayern lie a comfortable six points ahead of the competition in the Bundesliga with just five games remaining, they still have an axe to grind with their nearest rival, namely Schalke. This season, the Royal Blues have had Bayern's number in direct competition.
"Schalke have beaten us twice this season," said captain Kahn. "But I do not think it will be three." A Bayern win in Berlin on May 28, providing the 18-time Bundesliga champs do not collapse like a house of cards in the next five weeks, would also mean a domestic double. The consolation for another season that saw them fall short of their goals at the European club level.