Soccer-Nuremberg Cup win caps season of surprise in Germany

BERLIN Sun May 27, 2007 2:05pm BST

BERLIN May 27 (Reuters) - It's been a long time since one-time German powerhouse Nuremberg last won a title.

The long-suffering club beat Bundesliga champions Stuttgart 3-2 in an extra-time thriller to win the German Cup on Saturday.

It was the first silverware in two generations for the club that was once a dominant force with nine German championships.

It was also a fitting conclusion to a season of surprises -- such as back-to-back double winners Bayern Munich falling to fourth place.

From the first German championship in 1920 to the last in 1968, the side known across the country as "der Club" were feared. Nuremberg had an incredible 104-match winning streak from 1918 to 1922.

"It's a beautiful moment for all the 'Club' fans who had to endure all the problems and dubious past performances for so long," said Nuremberg coach Hans Meyer.

Nuremberg fell to the third division in 1996 after being penalised six points for financial problems. They climbed back to top flight but were relegated again in 1999 and 2003.

They bounced right back in 2004 but struggled to avoid relegation until Meyer arrived in 2005.

"It's a wonderful resurrection for us," said president Michael Roth. "It's mostly the older generation that remembers the glory days we used to have. It's great to be back."

But Roth did not want to gloat when asked how it felt to win more silverware this year than arch enemy Bayern Munich.

"I hope expectations won't now rise too high too fast."

Nuremberg qualified for the UEFA Cup this season after a sixth place finish in the Bundesliga.

"It's a huge story for Nuremberg," said Stuttgart coach Armin Veh. "But it would have been a huge story for us too."

Veh, who led his team to their first Bundesliga championship in 15 years, said he was proud of his men for fighting from behind desepite being down to 10 from the 31st minute -- Cacau was sent off for punching a Nuremberg defender.