DAVID SMITH - Thursday, April 26, 2012
Conor O'Brien and Brad Rusin both put in full shifts for their respective teams, however both saw their Danish Cup runs come to a halt as Copenhagen and AC Horsens progressed to next month's final.
SønderjyskE 4 - 3 FC Copenhagen (agg. 4-4)
Conor O'Brien and SønderjyskE suffered a heartbreaking loss on aggregate goals to Copenhagen on Wednesday, as a late penalty shot for the visitors sent them crashing out thanks to away goals.
With Copenhagen having won the first leg by a narrow 1-0 margin one week before, O'Brien and his teammates came into the contest knowing that that only an outright victory would put them through, with the added difficulty of having to prevent prevent their opponents from netting any potentially-deadly away goals.
Just 13 minutes after the starting whistle, their road became a far tougher one when Copenhagen opened the scoring, with Dame N'Doye rising high to heading a cross from the left endline by Bryan Oveido.
The goal put the hosts in the near-impossible position of needing to score three goals against the league powerhouse in order to have any hope of going through, and they defied all the odds to do exactly that over the next half-hour.
Their first came on a fast break in the 16th minute when Quincy Antipas chased down a long ball and slipped it inside to Eyjolfur Hedinsson for the equalizer, then Bjorn Paulsen netted another two minutes before the half hour as he slipped into the box for a short-range finish.
With the taste of blood in their mouths, the hosts took the aggregate lead two minutes before the half. Antipas sprinted onto a long ball from the backfield, cut between central defender Kris Stadsgaard and keeper Kim Christensen, then finished into an open net.
After an action-packed opening half, the final 45 minutes delivered just as much drama and excitement.
The visitors pulled one back eight minutes after the break with N'Doye netting his second of the day, receiving a pass from Christian Gamboa and finding space amidst the defense for a tidy finish.
SønderjyskE needed just three minutes to regain the upper hand with Antipas once again playing the hero, tracking down a long ball, hitting the woodwork with his initial shot then putting away the rebound.
Over the next 30 minutes, the hosts took on a heavily defensive posture in an effort to protect their lead, but were finally done in with seven minutes remaining.
Central defender Anders Ostli pulled Cesar Santin down in the area from behind to prevent a sure goal. The defender was shown a straight red for the infraction, but the real damage was done by Santin, who put away the spot kick to pull the teams even on aggregate, and give Copenhagen the advantage on away goals.
In the final minutes, SønderjyskE pushed desperately for another bit of magic, and were close with Hedinsson hitting the crossbar in the 89th and O'Brien forcing Christensen into a save moments later, but the final whistle eventually confirmed that the day belonged to Copenhagen.
SønderjyskE can now put all their energy into the final six games of the Superligaen season, with the team still holding a good chance of qualifying for the Europa League.
With both finalists Copenhagen and Horsens almost certain to qualify for European play through their league positions, the Superligaen's fifth-placed team will also gain entry. O'Brien and his teammates are currently in seventh, however are just two points out of fifth, and could feasibly jump the two crucial places over the weekend should they beat Brøndby on Sunday.
AC Horsens 1 - 0 HB Køge (agg. 3-2)
Brad Rusin and Køge put up a heroic fight in their quest to reach next month's final in Copenhagen, however an 86th-minute goal by hosts Horsens ended their dreams on Thursday afternoon.
Rusin earned his first start in central defense of 2012, playing the full game and picking up a second-half yellow card.
Even before kickoff, Køge were dealt a triple blow after the trio of Thomas Christensen, Bo Storm and Nicolaj Madsen were all late scratches from the stating lineup, forcing Tommy Møller Nielsen to turn to his bench.
Horsens were clearly on the front foot from start to finish, although Køge weren't without their own occasional moments of danger, with Thomas Sørensen coming close after 25 minutes and Fabinho just missing with a header immediately before the break.
With Horsens having scored a pair of away goals in last week's first leg, the onus was on Køge to score, and Rusin had a chance with a header with ten minutes left that ended up well off-target.
In the 86th minute, Horsens finally nabbed the goal that assured them of their first-ever trip to the Cup final, with Martin Spelmann playing Ken Fagerberg into the danger zone, who then slid a short pass across to Jeppe Mehl for an easy finish into an open net.
With six games left in their league campaign and a 12-point gap to safety, the team's relegation is all but assured, however they can inflict some revenge on Horsens when the teams meet again on Sunday at Køge.