Schalke 04 progressed to the final of the German Cup on Tuesday after beating holders Werder Bremen in a penalty shoot-out. The victory means the Royal Blues face either Bayern Munich or Arminia Bielefeld in the final.
Lincoln and Ailton celebrate progressing at Werder's expense
During a night of high excitement and embarrassing calamity Schalke 04 kept their hopes of ending the season with some silverware alive with a dramatic 5-4 win over German Cup holders Werder Bremen on Tuesday. Three penalty saves and the final winning spot-kick from Schalke goalkeeper Frank Rost in the nail-biting showdown put the Royal Blues into the cup final after the match finished 2-2 after extra-time.
In a thrilling penalty shootout former Bremen star Rost beat his opposite number Andreas Reinke as Schalke reached the cup final for the third time in five seasons.
"I had faith in myself and I am captain so I sent Mike Hanke away," said match hero Rost. "This was an amazing match and it is a shame it had to end in penalties."
"That was an amazing game," enthused Schalke coach Ralf Ragnick. "I hope that drives us on now for the rest of the season."
Trophy hope for Schalke, none for Werder
Despite losing ground to Bayern Munich in the race for the title this year, Schalke keep their season alive with a chance to capture the cup on May 28. Their opponents could well be the Bavarian giants who face Arminia Bielefeld in the other semi-final on Wednesday night.
But for last year's double winners Bremen, the season will finish empty-handed after penalty misses from Fabian Ernst - who is joining Schalke at the end of the season - Canadian Paul Stalteri and Tim Borowski ended their cup campaign. Bremen are well off the pace in the championship run-in and capitulated in disastrous style in their Champions League campaign.
A game of ebb and flow
While the result will effectively end Bremen's season, the result could have gone their way in a game that swung back and forth between skill and comedy. With four minutes left in normal time Schalke led 1-0 through a 64th minute goal from Danish striker Ebbe Sand but Frenchman Valerien Ismael equalized for Bremen to take the game into extra-time.
The momentum was with Bremen and German international Borowski - who scored twice in the final last season - netted four minutes into extra-time but former Bremen favorite Ailton leveled two minutes later to make it all square.
Both Ailton and Borowski missed spot-kicks in a crazy penalty shoot-out but Rost took the plaudits following his three saves before stepping up to score the winning spot-kick.
Bayern look for revenge over Bielefeld
Rost's heroics will mean that Schalke may get the chance to derail Bayern Munich's double hopes if the champions-elect overcome Arminia Bielefeld.
Bayern will be looking for revenge over their opponents on Wednesday night. Arminia Bielefeld find themselves in auspicious company: along with Arsenal, Chelsea and Schalke, Bielefeld are one of the teams who have beaten Munich in 2005. Bielefeld triumphed in a shock 3-1 win over Bayern on February13.
That defeat, according to Bayern boss Felix Magath, means that Munich are almost certain to win in their semi-final against the Bundesliga minnows. "We won't lose to Bielefeld twice in one season," Magatt insisted in an interview on the club's Web site. "We've got a score to settle."
Warning of previous defeat
Being beaten 3-1 by Bielefeld obviously bruised the egos of Munich multimillionaire players and means that the Bundesliga leaders are unlikely to underestimate their less illustrious opponents in the cup. "They made life very difficult for us with their determination and resolve," Magath recalled, warning of more of the same on Wednesday: "This is the match of the season for them. They'll run till they drop and battle for every inch of ground."
Bayern defender Willy Sagnol agreed with his boss and said that Bayern could expect predicted a "tough match" against a side 99 percent free of relegation worries, and savoring the prospect of an appearance in the Cup final and a place in the UEFA Cup for the first time in a history spanning almost a century.
Bielefeld boss Uwe Rapolder, in either a moment of realism or as part of pre-match mind games, said: "The only final I've ever taken part in was probably the district league. We don't stand a chance -- and we intend to use it."