Third-tier Saarbrücken’s fairytale German cup run ended by Kaiserslautern

<span>Saarbruecken's players acknowledge fans after their DFB Pokal semi-final defeat to Kaiserslautern.</span><span>Photograph: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Saarbruecken's players acknowledge fans after their DFB Pokal semi-final defeat to Kaiserslautern.Photograph: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images

Lowly Saarbrücken’s giant-killing run in the DFB-Pokal, which had accounted for the likes of Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt, was finally brought to an end by Kaiserslautern in the semi-finals of the German cup competition.

The exploits of the third-tier club from the town on the French border had become one of the stories of the season after a stunning second-round victory over Bayern was followed by wins over Eintracht in the last 16 and Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final eight.

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But at Saarbrücken’s Ludwigsparkstadion on Tuesday, Rüdiger Ziehl’s side met their match in the shape of bitter local rivals Kaiserslautern, as second-half goals from Marlon Ritter and Almamy Toure dashed their hopes of reaching the final.

Second-division Kaiserslautern, based 65km down the road from Saarbrücken, will face either Xabi Alonso’s Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen or Düsseldorf, who meet on Wednesday, in the final.

Kaiserslautern are struggling in the 2. Bundesliga this season and lie third from bottom, but their run to the decider has given Friedhelm Funkel’s team something to cheer about. It will be first time since 2011 that a team from outside the top flight have reached the cup final.

Saarbrücken, founded 120 years ago, have only played in the Bundesliga for five seasons and not since 1992-93, but in the DFB-Pokal they are carving out a name for themselves as giant-killers.

The last time they played in the competition four years ago, they also reached the semi-finals – becoming the first fourth-tier club to do so – and across those two campaigns, they won eight of 10 games.