DAVID SMITH - Monday, May 23, 2011
Michael Parkhurst played the full game for Nordsjaelland on Sunday evening as they beat Midtjylland on a dramatic injury-time winner by Søren Christensen to successfully lift the Danish Cup for a second straight year.
This also marked the second straight time that Midtjylland fell victim in the final stage of the competition, although this time around all was decided - just barely - over 90 minutes in contrast to last year's overtime win for the Wild Tigers.
Nordsjaelland's opening score in the 16th minute came somewhat against the run of play, as the Wolves had dominated possession and were the team applying substantial pressure throughout the opening quarter hour.
Forward Tobias Mikkelsen located frontline partner Rawez Lawan lurking in Midtjylland's box near the penalty spot, and served up a short cross which the Swede controlled and hit low past Midtjylland keeper Jonas Lössl for 1-0.
Midtjylland remained diligent and equalized in the 37th minute, with Sylvester Igboun picking up a failed clearance on the right side of the field and crossing it to the far post where Mikkel Thygesen was waiting to put the ball away to put the game on even terms.
While the game would go into the break still tied, Nordsjaelland struck again nine minutes after the restart. Matti Lund Nielsen, whose fitness was a big pre-game question mark for head coach Morten Wieghorst, teamed up with Lawan on a quick attack on the left side, and finally slid a diagonal pass back to his Swedish teammate for a blast on target which left Lössl no chance.
A determined Midtjylland squad continued to fight, and pulled even for a second time with 19 minutes left in regulation. A cross from the left by Jesper Juelsgård was slightly deflected, and flew to the far post where Thygesen was waiting to strike the ball into the net for the equalizer.
As the final minutes passed, the game looked headed to 30 minutes of overtime as in last season's final between these two teams, however Nordsjaelland had one final surprise in store.
The teams both pushed to net a late winner, perhaps too much in the case of Midtjylland as Nordsjaelland midfielder Søren Christensen was suddenly left with the ball at his feet and plenty of space and time to operate in Midtjylland's penalty area well into injury time.
The former Danish youth international took his time and made his shot count, beating Lössl with little trouble for the 93rd minute winner.
Midtjylland almost returned the favor just sends later as Ken Fagerberg suddenly received the ball in the Wild Tigers' penalty area with a clear line on goal. However his shot flew wide of the mark, with the referee's whistle blowing moments afterwards to confirm the that Parkhurst and his teammates would be the ones standing at the winner's podium.
The win means that the Wild Tigers will once again have a crack at the Europa League, and will enter the competition in the playoff round beginning in late-August.
They still have two more games left on the schedule for their domestic campaign. While not mathematically clear of relegation, they are all for all intents and purposes safe, and will try to keep focus for their Wednesday-evening visit to local rivals Brøndby and home closer four days later in Farum against a surely-deflated Midtjylland team.