Europe: Twente shock Ajax; Cup Finals Review (+video)
There were a multitude of cup finals taking place over Europe this weekend with the biggest of them in Holland. FC Twente Enschede put a marker ahead of their crucial championship showdown in Amsterdam by beating Ajax in extra-time. There were also cup wins for Slovan Bratislava, Llanelli AFC, Linfield FC and UE Sant Julià.
With two crucial games in the space of a week Ajax coach Frank De Boer and his Twente counterpart Michel Preud’homme would be in no doubt as to which of those games they would rather win but Sunday’s KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) final proved to be an exciting hors d’oeuvres ahead of next weekend’s main course. Ajax, record winners of the trophy with 18 wins, got off to a great start going 2-0 up by the 40th minute with Demy de Zeeuw and Lorenzo Ebecilio getting on the score sheet. FC Twente, however, pulled one back on the stroke of half-time through Wout Brama and this handed the initiative back to Preud’homme’s side. The second half saw Twente restore parity in the 56th minute thanks to Theo Janssen and this was how the game remained until the end of the game. Extra-time was needed and an inspired substitution from Twente proved to be the difference between the two teams as Marc Janko, who made his entrance for the second half of added time, scored the winner with just three minutes to play and secured Twente’s third cup success.
WATCH FC TWENTE’S CUP CELEBRATIONS HERE:
In Slovakia there was an exciting final between the country’s two biggest clubs. Slovan Bratislava, defending cup holders going into this season’s competition, met MŠK Žilina who, despite having won four league championships in the last decade, had never won the Slovenský Pohár (Slovak Cup). They may have fancied their chances at half-time going in 2-1 to the good thanks to goals from Štefan Zošák and Ivan Lietava cancelling out Slovan’s opening goal from Martin Guldan. Filip Šebo equalized for Slovan in the second half of regular time and then gave his side the lead with just seven minutes of extra-time remaining. Just as it looked like Slovan could get the champagne out Žilina scored at the death thanks to Patrik Mráz and took the game to the lottery of a penalty shoot out. Slovan Bratislava held their nerve to come through a tense shoot out by five goals to four and helped themselves to a second successive cup win.
There were also cup finals in Wales, Northern Ireland and Andorra. Bangor City, following their Welsh Premier League success eight days earlier (see “Away Days” section), were hoping to secure their first ever league and cup double but their opponents Llanelli AFC had other ideas. Perhaps the emotion of the league success had taken its toll on Bangor as they never looked like claiming the cup once Llanelli took a 2-0 half-time lead through Rhys Griffiths and Craig Moses. Although Bangor City’s Alan Bull pulled one back in the second half the game was over as a contest once Griffiths and Chris Venables added further to Llanelli’s tally to help the club win their first Welsh Cup title. In Northern Ireland record champions Linfield FC, who celebrated winning their 50th league championship in the previous week, extended their success in the nation’s knockout tournament too. Linfield won their 41st Irish Cup with Peter Thompson and Mark McAllister finding the back of the net in a 2-1 win over Crusaders FC. Finally in Andorra UE Sant Julià got some revenge for losing out on the league title to UE Santa Coloma by beating the champions 3-1 in extra-time. Goals from Varela, Salvat and Iguacel helped secure UE Sant Julià their third Copa Constitució.