Milan Vilotić struck the decisive penalty after FC Basel 1893 had twice hit the woodwork as Grasshopper Club ended a ten-year wait for a trophy with a hard-earned triumph in the Swiss Cup final.
There was little to choose between the teams throughout an absorbing encounter as they traded blows. Markus Steinhöfer briefly had Basel in front with 20 minutes left but Izet Hajrovic equalised and after chances at both ends the game in Berne went to spot kicks. Fabian Frei and Raúl Bobadilla both blasted against the frame of the goal and Vilotić kept his cool to seal it 4-3 on penalties.
"It was a very difficult game, but the win was very important for us," said the defender. "This team deserved the trophy. Let the party begin!" Switzerland's most successful club may be a bit rusty when it comes to celebrating, having endured a decade without silverware since 2003 when they wrapped up their 27th league championship. That is still a record by some distance, as is this, their 18th Swiss Cup triumph.
It did not come easy. Only a miraculous Roman Bürki save kept out Marcelo Díaz's dazzling early strike, with the Zurich outfit's principal threat coming from Steven Zuber's set-piece delivery. The game became taut, at times attritional, but the opportunities kept coming with Grasshoppers' Shkelzen Gashi failing to make the most of a one-on-one before half-time. Vilotić went closer after the restart, directing Zuber's delivery against the bar.
Basel looked to have punished the profligacy when Steinhöfer's shot deflected off Stéphane Grichting and beyond Bürki. Back came Grasshoppers, though, Hajrovic tapping in after Yann Sommer parried Michael Lang's long-range effort. Extra time brought further half-chances but the match was destined for penalties and Vilotić's decisive blow.
"A penalty shoot-out is the luck of the draw," rued Basel coach Murat Yakin, whose FC Luzern side lost on spot kicks to his current employers in last season's final. "Now we want to win the league." Leading by six points with three games left, Basel are hot favourites but that could change on Sunday when their hosts are ... second-placed Grasshoppers.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.