| Bayern Munich captain Oliver Kahn with the German Cup in Berlin Saturday. (Reuters)
Berlin: Michael Ballack inspired Bayern Munich to a 3-1 win over Kaiserslautern in Saturday’s German Cup final for their fourth domestic League and Cup double.
The Germany playmaker scored two early goals before setting up a third to help the German champions seal their 11th Cup triumph. They also won the double in 1969, 1986 and 2000.
Bayern comfortably won their 18th League title with four games remaining in the season.
Ballack headed Bayern into the lead from a free kick by England midfielder Owen Hargreaves in the third minute and doubled the advantage from a penalty seven minutes later after Hargreaves was brought down in the box.
He then set up Peru striker Claudio Pizarro, who flicked the ball over Kaiserslautern goalkeeper Tim Wiese to put Bayern 3-0 up five minutes into the second half.
Kaiserslautern, who battled against relegation and financial collapse this season, had midfielder Marian Hristov sent off for a dangerous tackle on Bayern’s Elber in the 78th minute.
Germany striker Miroslav Klose pulled one back for Kaiserslautern with a header two minutes later, but the game was already beyond doubt.
The four-time German champions were playing their seventh Cup final and were hoping to lifting the trophy for the third time after 1990 and 1996 but a determined Bayern side ruined their plans.
With Bayern going into the Champions League, the south-westerners knew they would enter the Uefa Cup even if they lost the final.
They came close to reducing the arrears just after Ballack’s penalty, when Portugal midfielder Jose Manuel Dominguez headed narrowly wide from a cross by Harry Koch.
But Bayern were in control for most of the game and failed to open a 4-0 lead when a low volley from just inside the box by Pizarro flirted with the post in the 54th minute.
Tight defending and a commanding midfield display helped Bayern add to their rich collection of silverware as they signed off in style after a season marred by their embarrassing first-stage exit from the Champions League.
“Last year I lost the final but this time I’ve got the trophy,” said Ballack, who lost the German Cup and Champions League finals last season with Leverkusen, the side that also finished runners-up to Borussia Dortmund in the League.
“It was important for all the team to win today. The early goals were the foundation stones for our victory,” he added.
“After 10 minutes we could have gone home,” said former Bayern great Franz Beckenbauer, now the club’s supervisory board chairman. “When we lead 2-0, we can’t be beaten. We’re very good at holding on to a lead.”
“We’ve got the double. What more could we want'”
Success in Europe is the obvious answer to that question and will be Bayern’s priority next season. They know they can rely on Ballack, now clearly a winner.
”I hadn't expected the game to be like that,” said Kaiserslautern coach Erik Gerets.“It was all over before it really started.
”At halftime I noticed that the guys were resigned. I had the feeling very early that we were not going to make it.”
Ottmar Hitzfeld became the most successful German coach at club level with Bayern Munich’s German Cup victory.
Bayern, under Hitzfeld, have now won 15 trophies — one more than Udo Lattek, who captured 14 with Bayern, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Barcelona.
The 54-year-old Hitzfeld has won the Champions League twice, with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern in 2001.
He has also won six German titles — two with Dortmund and four with Bayern — two Swiss titles with Grasshoppers, three Swiss Cups with Grasshoppers and two German Cups with Bayern.
Voeller hits back
Germany coach Rudi Voeller has hit back at former German striker Mario Basler for his criticism of the team as boring and straight-laced.
“Instead of drinking five half-litre bottles of beer and smoking a pack of Marlboros in 10 minutes, he would have been better off listening to what trainers had to say now and then,” Voeller said on Friday.
“He got far too little out of the talent that God gave him,” Voeller added in a rare attack from the normally mild-mannered coach.
“I would wish he would show a bit more self-criticism. Instead of criticising players who work their arses off for their clubs and Germany, he should take a critical look at his own career.”