David Abraham put Markus Gisdol’s men on the road to victory as the home team’s resistance was broken, but an Alexander Baumjohann free-kick gave the hosts hope before Jannik Vestergaard smashed it again to secure a 5-2 aggregate victory.
Sippel manning the fortress
The teams emerged to an imposing backdrop with the home fans displaying a banner reading ‘Bastion Betzenberg - back to glory’. Hoffenheim took it as an invitation to storm the fortress and Sejad Salihovic's curling free-kick that flew just over set the tone early on.
Unnerved by the hostile howls from the terraces, Hoffenheim continued to force their hosts onto the back foot and Kevin Volland nearly found a way through, only for Chris Löwe to successfully block his route to goal.
The first clear-cut chance came when Volland nudged the ball past Sippel and tumbled to the ground, earning Hoffenheim a penalty. The usually sure-footed Salihovic stepped up, but his penalty was saved sensationally by Sippel, who got a strong left hand to the ball to turn it over the crossbar. Another fine reaction save from Sippel denied Salihovic again, but try as he might, the Lautern number one could not keep Hoffenheim at bay for a third time just before the interval.
He did turn another Salihovic header onto the crossbar, but Abraham was this time on hand to bundle the ball, and the wobbling Lautern keeper, over the line. Although the Red Devils came out fighting for the second half, the best chances continued to fall at the other end of the field, and they had Sippel to thank once again when he denied Volland with his left foot.
Baumjohann then gave Lautern a glimmer of hope as he curled a direct free-kick past Koen Casteels and Mohamadou Idrissou thought he had brought his side to within a goal of extra-time moments later, until he saw the linesman’s flag had been raised. The fans nevertheless sensed there was a chance and the near 50,000 crowd urged their team on.
Their spirits were dampened, if not drowned, when a determined header from Vestergaard left Lautern needing a miracle with 15 minutes to go. While Ariel Borysiuk’s free-kick tested Casteels, there was no route back into the game, and no route into the Bundesliga for the Red Devils.
Kaiserslautern: Sippel - Dick, Torrejon, Orban, Löwe - Borysiuk, Zellner - Drazan (Hoffer 55'), Baumjohann - Idrissou, Bunjaku (Weiser 64')
Hoffenheim: Casteels - Beck, Abraham (Süle 60'), Vestergaard, Thesker (Rudy 30') - Polanski, Weis - Salihovic, Johnson - Volland, Firmino (Schipplock 86')
Goals: 0-1 David Abraham (44'), 1-1 Baumjohann (65'), 1-2 Vestergaard (74')