Bundesliga champions and leaders Borussia Dortmund have beaten second-division leaders Greuther Fürth with the last kick of extra time in the German Cup semifinal. The closing seconds had a Twilight Zone feel.
Borussia Dortmund have reached the final of the German Cup, after a 1-0 extra time win against second division Greuther Fürth. Midfielder Ilkay Gündogan scored the decisive Dortmund goal, but it was overshadowed by a bold coaching decision from Fürth's trainer Michael Büskens that ultimately backfired.
With the game scoreless, just ninety seconds before a penalty shootout, Büskens substituted goalkeeper Max Grün for Jasmin Fejzic. Confused commentators started speculating as to whether Grün, who had had a splendid game, was carrying an injury. Moments thereafter, Gündogan rifled a shot onto the post from the edge of the area, before it rebounded onto the back of Fejzic's outstretched hand and bounced back into the net.
Asked about the decision after the game, Büskens said that he considered Fejzic to be his squad's best penalty-stopper.
"Jassi proves that time and again in training, and as a result we had agreed on this substitution before the game," Büskens said.
Gündogan's goal was the last kick of extra time.
Veteran Fürth winger Gerald Asamoah, a former German international, sought to draw positives from the shock defeat, pointing out that "we showed everyone what we're capable of tonight." Fürth's resilient display against the Bundesliga's top side supported this appraisal, and bodes well if the current leaders of the German second division manage to secure promotion at the end of the season.
Containing the champs
The northern Bavarian side appeared to have really done their homework heading into the game, pressing Dortmund and preventing them from settling into their free-flowing passing game in the early going. The guests gradually took control of the game, however, and spurned a trio of good chances in the closing phases of the first half.
The first, and probably the best, fell to Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa just after half an hour's play; he rose to head at goal from close range but couldn't keep the ball down. The Japanese playmaker, hardly renowned for his aerial prowess, had scored his first ever header for Dortmund in the league against Werder Bremen on Saturday - evidently lightning doesn't strike twice.
Moments later Dortmund marksman Robert Lewandowski picked up a low Jakub "Kuba" Blaszczykowski cross right in front of goal but wasted too much time on the ball before looking for a shot. He was never able to pull the trigger. Not long before the break it was Kuba who had a chance from just inside the area, but the Polish winger scuffed his shot harmlessly.
Though the game was goalless at the break, Dortmund enjoyed 65 percent of first-half possession.
Profligate Dortmund, dogged Fürth
As with the first, Fürth started the second period well, forcing Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer into a difficult clearance after a dangerous break culminating in a left-wing cross.
Following this strong passage of Fürth play, goalkeeper Grün was called into action on 56 minutes to rescue the second division side. Robert Lewandowski floated in a far-post cross from the right, Kevin Grosskreutz rose and headed towards the top corner, but somehow Grün got his fingertips to the ball and turned it away.
Less than a minute later, Shinji Kagawa shot wide with his weaker left foot as Dortmund started to re-establish a rhythm.
With the game ticking towards extra time, Kevin Grosskreutz was presented with another golden opportunity from mid-range, but he scooped the ball well over the bar.
Fürth also enjoyed several half-chances and made the most of the possession they could secure, with Dortmund possibly looking the most nervous side in the latter stages of regulation time. Club top-scorer Olivier Occean and twinkle-toed attacker Sercan Sararer, plying his trade on the left flank of a traditional 4-4-2, both looked particularly dangerous going forward.
A traditionally tired extra-time period, albeit with chances on both sides, had begun to stagnate until the last-minute drama so often associated with cup football brought the match to a grinding halt. Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp was probably particularly relieved; he had lost all six of his previous encounters with Greuther Fürth as a coach.
Bayern Munich travel to Borussia Mönchengaldbach in the second German Cup semifinal on Wednesday evening. With Gladbach, Dortmund and Bayern all very likely to qualify for the Champions League, the German Europa League place reserved for the cup winner is now likely to pass to the seventh placed side in the Bundesliga this season.
Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Richard Connor