Goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak emerged as the unlikely hero as Borussia Dortmund beat Bayern Munich on penalties to qualify for the final of German DFB Cup and so deprive the Bundesliga champions of an opportunity to secure a domestic treble for the third successive season. With the scores level at 1-1 after normal and extra-time, Jurgen Klopp’s team scored with two of their penalties as Bayern failed to convert any of their spot-kicks in a bizarre end to an enthralling game of football.
Langerak was signed by Borussian Dortmund in 2010 but has always featured as second choice goalkeeper with Roman Weidenfeller preferred for the first team. The Australian has played only 16 Bundesliga games in his five seasons at Dortmund but in his first game for the team, he replaced Weidenfeller during a 3-1 victory against Bayern Munich.
Thereafter Langerak played in two further cup games against Bayern during the following seasons and on each occasion, Dortmund triumphed. With Weidenfeller unavailable for last weekend’s 2-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt, Langerak was selected for that game and for Tuesday evening’s DFB Cup semi-final.
Bayern Munich dominated proceedings for most of the first hour in midweek with Robert Lewandowski finding the net during the opening half while Langerak producing several fine saves including stopping a short-range effort by Bastian Schweinsteiger. With Bayern unable to breach the opposition defence any further, a late goal by Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ensured that the game entered extra-time and eventual penalties.
However, Langerak only saved one penalty as Bayern missed with four attempts. Both Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso slipped and drove their spot-kicks over the crossbar while ‘keeper Manuel Neuer aimed to show his fellow outfield players how to convert penalties, but only succeeded in firing his effort against the crossbar. The Australian goalkeeper saved a Mario Gotze penalty with Sebastian Kehl and Ilkay Gundogan netting for Dortmund to seal a victory for Jurgen Klopp in his last season at Signal-Iduna Park.
Langerak emerged as the hero from the game but that has not always been the case this season as the first game of the 2014-15 Bundesliga campaign demonstrated. During that opening match against Bayer Leverkusen on home turf, Langerak was beaten after just nine seconds when Karim Bellarabi scored the fastest goal in Bundesliga history in driving the ball underneath the ‘keeper from just inside the penalty area.
Leverkusen completed a 2-0 victory that day and Langerak did not feature again for the first team until December. In five league appearances during that month, he was involved in just one victory when Dortmund beat Hoffenheim 1-0 and he played no further games until his involvement against Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend.
Bayern Munich will now reflect that Mitchell Langerak is a lucky charm for Borussia Dortmund whenever the two teams meet and the Australian features on the pitch, but goalkeepers can emerge as both the hero and a subject of derision as Bayer Leverkusen can testify.