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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

FC Basel Complete The Swiss Double

Swiss Champions Add the Swiss Cup to Their Impressive Trophy Cabinet With a Win Over FC Luzern in the Swiss Cup Final.

Any observer of Swiss football will know that FC Luzern were really the only team that had a chance of defeating the reigning champions of the pristine mountain region. Basel are at a high point, winning their third consecutive Swiss title and second Swiss Cup in three years after they defeated Murat Yakan's FC Luzern in Bern this evening.

Yann Sommer was the hero for FC Basel as he saved two of the kicks in a dramatic penalty shootout. He also had several strong saves during the game as the Luzern offense pushed up at goal. Basel fielded their favored lineup after a few weeks of inconsistency following their title win. Sommer was in back for the red and blue side with a strong defensive lineup of Steinhofer, David Abraham, Dragovic and Joo Ho Park in front of him. Xherdan Shaqiri is rarely left out of the lineup and enjoyed blasting past the defenders on the wing. Granit Xhaka, Huggel and Stocker joined him in the midfield. Up front for Basel it was their regular, and highly successful, striking force of Frei and the captain Streller. Although neither of them found the back of the net until the penalty shootout, they were still a threat to the Luzern defense. Luzern also turned out one of their strongest lineups with Zibung in goal, Sarr, Puljic Stahel and Lustenberger, who played a key role in Luzern's defensive success, in front of him to hold off Streller and Frei. Wiss and Renggli held back in the side's 4-2-2- lineup with Winter, Horchstrasser, Ferreira and Lezcano in front of them. Lezcano was a pain in the rears of the FC Basel defense for the majority of the match.
Although Basel were the dominant side in terms of possession, Sommer was forced into action much more often than Zibung was for Luzern. A large duration of the first half was played out in the midfield where both sides send penetrating through balls down the center and to the wings in addition to the long balls they would occasionally send up top for the posting forwards on both teams.
While Lezcano was the main man in the attack for Luzern, Stocker was the man in attack for Basel. He forced many of the saves from Zibung and repeatedly scorched the wingers and outside defenders when he got the ball on the wing. He was also effective with the through ball from the midfield and timed his runs well. His best effort came in the 25th minute but the keeper was quick off his line and denied the young Swiss winger a goal.
At the half, the two sides were drawn 0-0. Sommer had made some fantastic saves and Zibung was quick off his line and good in the air to keep Basel at bay. Both managers were thoughtfully preparing their halftime talk as the whistle sounded and the fans for both sides continued to cheer in the Stade de Suisse.
Luzern were off on the attack in the second half, Winter forcing a good save from Sommer early on. Ferreira was also able to make a promising effort on goal before Basel worked the ball out of their half. With ten minutes gone in the second half, Benjamin Huggel, who featured in his final Swiss Cup game of his career before retiring this summer, rose to meet a free kick and put it in the back of the net with a powerful header.
Basel had the 1-0 lead but there was still lots of time to be played out. The goal did excite Basel, however and they began to pressure harder than they had in the first half, where both sides appeared to be lackadaisical about their play. After a substitution from Yakan and a few more chances on goal for Basel, Luzern scored an equalizer. Puljic put his side back in the game as he beat Sommer and the Basel defense to make it 1-1.
By the 90th minute, the intensity was starting to show. Both sides were starting to fatigue after many failed attempts at goal and some crazy defense to keep the other attackers away from their own. Before the stoppage time was even added, it seemed as though both sides were preparing for the grueling extra 30 minutes of game time and, if the score remained tied, the dreaded penalty shootout.
The additional time was much like the rest of the game. The first fifteen minutes involved a few attacks, but for the most part Basel just wanted to possess and didn't press too hard at the Luzern defense. By the second fifteen, the fatigue had really set in and both sides were starting to fall into a slow passing rhythm laced with some small bursts of energy. When the final whistle sounded, the pulses began to race around the stadium and the players and fans prepared themselves for the intense and exciting penalty kicks.
Yapi was the first to step up to take a penalty kick after he was subbed on for the goalscorere Benjamin Huggel in the second half of regular play. He took a strong kick to the side netting. FC Luzern's midfielder Renggli stepped up to take his kick and also hit the side netting. FC Basel captain Marco Streller stepped up to take the second kick for Basel and put it neatly past Zibung, who guessed the right direction but there was too much pace on the shot. Sommer made the first save on Luzern's second penalty kick, denying Ohayon and keeping the score at 3-2 in Basel's favor. Zoua made it 4-2 with a powerful kick to the back of the net. Gygax netted his kick perfectly, but his side were still in need of a save from Zibung of a miss from the composed team from Basel. Shaqiri stepped up to take his kick, if he made it, a miss from Luzern or a save from Sommer would be enough to see Basel crowned Champions. The young Swiss winger, bound for Bayern Munich in the summer, stepped up confidently and put a bizarre, bouncing shot past Zibung to make it 5-3 for Basel. Thanks to some interesting scare tactics from Sommer, the young keeper denied Stahel of a goal. He guessed the right direction and made a good save to keep the penalty out of his and and make Basel the champions.
The win was a brilliant way to top off a successful season for the team, who underwent a management change before the halfway point of the season. German manager Thorsten Fink took over at Hamburg SV in the Bundesliga, opening up the head coaching position for the young but experienced manager Heiko Vogel. Vogel steered his side to a victory against rivals Young Boys Bern and multiple successes on the European stage. Luzern had a good run this season and can't be terribly disappointed with their overall performances considering their low league placement last season. They qualify for the playoffs in the UEFA Champions League and, if all goes well, can contend for the title again next year against a changed Basel side.

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