DAVID SMITH - Thursday, May 13, 2010
Michael Parkhurst went the full 120 minutes in defensive midfield for Nordsjælland as they overcame Midtjylland thanks to a pair of extra time goals to hoist their first-ever Danish Cup.
Despite having shown well in recent weeks in his customary central defense position, Parkhurst was deployed by head coach Morten Wieghorst in a defensive midfield position for the first time, favoring Andreas Bjelland and Benjamin Kibebe as the pairing against Midtjylland's young attacking duo of Ken Ilsø and Baba Collins.
The teams pieced together good attacking sequences throughout the first half-hour, but both were lacking the precision needed to break through for the opening score.
Parkhurst teamed up well with Nicolai Stockholm in his first foray in the Wild Tigers' midfield, preventing Midtjylland from building any sustained pressure up through the middle of the field.
Nordsjælland increasingly held the upper hand as the half wore on and surely felt hard done by in the 38th minute when an apparent foul on Nicki Bille Nielsen by Winston Ried in the Wolves' penalty area was ignored by the referee.
They nearly went ahead just past the hour mark when a turnover by Ried in his team's backfield led to a Nordsjælland attack that culminated with a shot off the left post by Stockholm.
Parkhurst was shown a rare yellow card with 16 minutes remaining for pulling down substitute Danny Olsen on a break, forcing him to take a slightly more watchful tack for the remainder.
Both teams were found wanting for creativity for much of the half, however, with a rash of miscues ultimately sending the scoreless game into extra time at the end of regulation.
Nordsjælland finally jumped into the lead six minutes into the first overtime period, with Stockholm and Nielsen teaming up finally bring the game to life. Stockholm sent a fine pass to Nielsen, who turned towards goal in a dangerous position but instead pushed the ball back to his teammate to put away for the 1-0 advantage.
Sensing the team's first piece of silverware now minutes away, the Wild Tigers put the game beyond reach ten minutes later just as the second overtime period was underway, with Midtjylland keeper Jonas Lössel blocking an initial shot by Andreas Laudrup directly to the feet of Bajram Fetai, who made no mistake in adding the team's insurance goal.
With the result now a certainty and the toll of a long night on all players' legs, Midtjylland showed little fight in the last minutes of extra time, with the final whistle sending the Nordsjælland players and fans into celebration.
As an added bonus, the win qualifies Nordsjælland for the 2010-11 Europa League for their second-ever appearance in European play. The Cup win places them in the third qualifying round beginning in late-July, however they could be shifted directly into the playoff round set for August pending the outcome of other qualification results around Europe in the next few days.
The Wild Tigers still have one more game remaining in league play, but will likely still be feeling effects of their celebrations when they head to Esbjerg on Sunday.