1 FFC Frankfurt had their goalkeeper to thank after sneaking through the semi finals of the of the Uefa Women's Champions League by beating FC Rosengard on penalties. Despite losing their 1-0 lead from the first leg, the Germans won through 5-4 in the shootout after Sofia Bjork Gunnarsdottir saw her kick saved by Anne Katherine Kremer.
Frankfurt fly out the blocks but Rosengard soon take control
The game started at an electric pace, with hosts Frankfurt well on top from the first whistle, and the first chance of the match coming from within seconds after a poor kick from replacement goalkeeper Sofia Lundrgen resulted in a corner. The ball was played into the middle of the penalty area and a sleeping Rosengard defence struggled to clear, the ball falling to Laura Störzel whose shot clipped the crossbar.
Frankfurt's game was to press high and in the opening spell they forced a nervy Rosengard defence onto the backfoot, Mandy Islacker's runs in behind the high defensive line a constant threat throughout the first half. When captain Kerstin Garefrekes dragged a shot inches wide in Frankfurt's second presentable chance within five minutes, the Germans looked well on their way to extending their lead from the first leg.
However, Rosengard's experienced team, with Emma Berglund, Bjork Gunnarsdottir and superstar Marta beginning to get their foot onto the ball and calm the nerves around them. After only ten minutes, they really should have been level when Gunnarsdottir hit a shot horribly over the top after Lina Nilsson's weak ball fell to her in space on the penalty spot. Rosengard, deploying an unnusual 3-4-3 were finding plenty of joy down both wings as both wingbacks bombed forward with alarming regularity for Frankfurt. Ali Riley in particular found space to play in several delicious crosses, none of which were attacked with any real venom by the forward line.
Ironically, it was a delicious cross from one of Frankfurt's fullbacks which nearly led to the opening goal, the ball sent high to the back stick and Islacker's brilliant inventive finish flashed across the goal but agonisingly inches wide.
Frankfurt would soon be made to pay for their profligacy, when the standout player from Rosengard, Gunnarsdottir, sprinted through a static Frankfurt defence to be found by Nilsson's long ball, and looping her header over the poorly positioned Kramer, she levelled the tie at one apiece.
Rosengard tails were up, with Frankfurt and their impressive following in shock. Pushing higher and higher up the pitch, the Swedes forced a succession of corners, all delivered brilliantly by Marta, to no success.
But just on half time, Frankfurt should have been level when a corner evaded everyone to find Ana-Maria Crnogorčević at the backpost, her first time effort was clawed away by the sprawling Lundgren. It was the Swedes first real save of the night and would be the first of many impressive saves to come.
Lundgren proves able cover as Frankfurt begin to dominate
After a quiet opening period in the second half, Lundgren again came to Rosengard's rescue as she stopped a dangerous low shot from Garefrekes. On loan from Hammerby to provide cover for the now injured Erin McLoed, the Swede was proving to be a hit on her first ever start for Rosengard.
Several saves would follow , the most notable from Sophie Schmidt, with Lundgren now far the busier of the two goalkeepers as her team tired and Frankfurt stepped up the park.
The lack of match sharpness for the Swedes was apparent, in only their second game in a month with the Swedish season yet to start until mid-April. Frankfurt, on the other hand, looked by far the fresher of the teams, pushing their fullbacks high up the park and even forcing Marta to play more as an auxilery defender.
However, for all their good play in the middle of the park, Jackie Groonen particularly effective, Frankfurt's attack begin to slowly die out as the game reached the ninety minute mark. There would be one last chance for Rosengard, when against the run of play, another good ball by Nilsson found Kermer wanting but the two Rosengard attackers failed to convert and the game headed for extra time.
Quiet periods come to life in the dying moments
With Rosengard looking increasingly tired, it always looked likely that Frankfurt would take control of the match as extra time began and when Garefrekes nodded over from six yards out unmarked, the Swedes must have feared the worst.
Extra time proceeded for the most part without any incidents of note, however, Frankfurt struggling to break down a stubborn Rosengard and the Swedes rarely venturing foward.
However, in the dying embers of both halves of extra time the tie was nearly settled. In the first, when a wonderful fingertip save from Kremer sent a pointblank header onto her post, only for the followup to be cleared off the line. In the second, when Peggy Kuznik saw her header cleared off of the Rosengard line with the last kick of the game.
Dispair for Gunnarsdottir as Kremer saves the day
A tight game would have to be settled on penalties and Gunnarsdottir would be the unfortunate player, after she saw her kick saved by Kremer. Frankfurt converted all of theirs' to secure their place in the semi finals, a calm finish by Marith Priessen to seal the 5-4 win.