One of the joys of Cup football is the sometime David and Goliath matchups that occur. The opportunity to see a lower level team upset a top-tier club is a fun proposition for both fans of the underdogs and neutrals, and Wednesday’s action saw the improbable Holstein Kiel side win itself many new fans with their determined 2-0 victory over Mainz. Borussia Monchengladbach, Hertha Berlin, VfB Stuttgart were Wednesday’s other winners. The four sides join Tuesday winners Bayern Munich, SpVgg Greuther Furth, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim in the Pokal quartefinals.
Holstein Kiel 2-0 HSV Mainz
Despite the rich history of their club, Holstein Kiel haven’t played a prominent role in German football in decades. But Wednesday the club from the north German region were handball reigns did an outstanding David imitation, knocking off a Mainz side dogged by inconsistency all season and effectively pulled off the biggest upset of the Pokal’s 3rd round.
Holstein Kiel never looked intimated in their matchup with Mainz. Having already knocked off 2. Bundesliga sides Energie Cottbus and MSV Duisburg in the competition’s earlier rounds, the blue-clad Storks appeared confident and worthy of advancement. They received an early gift from their guests in the form of a Mainz own goal, as Warren Ujah accidentally headed into his own net off a Kiel corner kick. Thorsten Gutzheit’s players had a 1-0 lead after six minutes, and never looked back.
Mainz did seem to have difficulty adapting to the less than perfect pitch in Kiel, but do not doubt that they were outplayed throughout the course of the match. The fourth division side held their lead through the rest of the half, and were still leading past the hour mark when midfielder Steve Müller doubled the host’s lead in the 64th minute from a tough angle. A disheartened Mainz side were absent a rallying instinct Wednesday and were eliminated by the giant-killing Kiel side. The resulting joy on the pitch after the final whistle among players and Santa-clad fans was a delight to behold, and undoubtedly the underdogs from north Germany gained some new fans.
Hertha Berlin 3-1 1.FC Kaiserslautern
The recent dismissal of Hertha coach Markus Babbel amid front-office denials and accusations had no negative effect on the Berliner players, who stormed to an impressive Cup win at home Wednesday. Hertha youth coach René Tretschok was in charge for the matchup with the Red Devils in lieu of the arrival of new head man Michael Skibbe, and led his team to a well-earned win.
Wednesday’s match began slowly, but began heating up after a half hour or so with Marco Kurz’ Red Devils had some dangerous moments as both Olcay Sahan and Adam Nemec tested former Bayern keeper Thomas Kraft. It was the Berliners who scored the first goal, however, as Colombian international Adrian Ramos scored from a cross in the 43rd minute to give Hertha a 1-0 lead going into the second half.
Kaiserslautern rallied and found an early second half goal, as their Israeli star Itay Shechter levelled following some more fine work by the former Duisburg man Sahan. But it was the Berliners who carried the day in their vast Olympic Stadium home, as rising German star Pierre Michel Lasogga, who just turned 20, used muscle and guile to set himself up for a good shooting opportunity to the right of FCK keeper Kevin Trapp. The keeper got a hand on Lasogga’s low effort, but the ball had enough velocity to roll past him into the goal for the game-winner.
Hertha Berlin’s dominance was emphatically rewarded late in the game as Patrick Ebert drilled a shot into the Kaiserslautern net to delight the crowd and finalize the score at 3-1, 1. With all the uncertainty at Hertha lately, their advance into the quarterfinals should be a tasty elixir for fans of the Old Lady to savor over the winter break.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 3 – 1 Schalke
Lucien Favre’s team progressed to the quarterfinals by eliminating defending champions Schalke. Two goals from the in form Marco Reus ensured Gladbach finished a remarkable calendar year on a high note. At the beginning of the year, Gladbach were dead last in the standings and with no realistic hopes of playing in the Bundesliga. Twelve months later they are two games away from the Cup final and sitting in a Champions league spot in the league, a great mark of their incredible progress under Favre and the collective ability of the team. Gladbach narrowly lost when they traveled to Gelsenkirchen in the league earlier this season but today was a different story.
The hosts started the more aggressive and dangerous side, strong in midfield and playing with the confidence they have become known for this year. The biggest positive for Gladbach was the return to full fitness of their star player Marco Reus. Reus was giving Schalke a lot of trouble early on and neither Jones or Höger seemed to be able to track him effectively. In fact, the opening goal was created from a diagonal pass from the right made by Reus which fell to the feet of Arango, whose left foot picked out the bottom left corner perfectly. Despite being a goal down Schalke were still in the game and with a good chance to equalize. That is, until Huntelaar’s moment of madness. The Dutch striker was sent off shortly after the break for gesticulating to the assistant referee after a decision and following it up with a sarcastic applause. That inevitably made the task for his team much harder against a hard-working and organized Gladbach who had a good chance shortly after Herrmann worked an opening for Hanke whose shot from 11 meters was saved by Unnerstall.
Gladbach extended their lead four minutes after that when a Schalke throw in went array and Reus picked up the ball at the edge of the box and slipped a ball past Unnerstall from 25 meters, a clever finish from a clever player. It was all Gladbach from then on and they nearly scored another soon after but Unnerstall covered well this time. Against the run of play, Schalke pulled one back when Draxler pounced on a rebound from a Jurado shot. Chasing the equalizer, Schalke now opened themselves up and Gladbach exploited them on the counter two minutes from time when Reus was played clear on goal, Unnerstall missing the interception, and Reus left with an easy finish. In the end, Gladbach were more organized and made fewer errors, Neustädter and Nordveidt playing a particularly important role in midfield and setting the foundation for their performance in the first 70 minutes. After that it was just too late for Schalke, who never were able to compensate for the absence of Huntelaar.
VfB Stuttgart 2-1 Hamburger SV
Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink suffered his first loss Wednesday since taking over the red-shorts. During a great “Pokal” evening they lost to VfB Stuttgart 2-1, and have to blame themselves for wasting some decent chances. Stuttgart’s Sven Ulreich once again was the man of the match, saving his team at least five times.
Hamburg started well and created some decent chances but were punished for not taking advantage of them in the 23rd minute when German international Cacau shot the ball into the net after a cross from defender Cristian Molinaro. Hamburg’s defender Jeffrey Bruma slipped on the grass, creating an easy opportunity for Cacau to score the opener.
The game was a joy to watch. Both teams kept pressuring for another goal but it was Hamburg who equalized in the 54th minute due to an own goal from Stuttgart’s William Kvist. Mladen Petric passed the ball to Peruvian Paolo Guerrero who crossed into the middle and Kvist touched the ball which went into the net. Eight minutes later Stuttgart got their lead back. Molinaro once again delivered to Cacau, who knocked in his second goal of the night. Hamburg was furious after this 62nd minute goal and created various chances but Stuttgart keeper Ulreich saved them all, even in one-on-one situations, leaving Hamburg by the wayside and Bruno Labbadia’s Swabians in the Pokal quarterfinals.
Header photo from bundesliga.de.