AS Michael Hefele strode forward with purpose to take the second of Huddersfield Town’s five penalties in the shoot-out at Sheffield Wednesday earlier this month, he could not help but notice the baying crowd standing behind Kieren Westwood’s goal.
Every insult the German could imagine was being hurled in his direction as the Owls fans tried to put him off and cancel out an advantage given to the visitors by Sam Hutchinson’s earlier miss from the spot.
Hefele, however, would not be bowed and he produced a textbook finish from 12 yards into the bottom corner of Westwood’s net as the Republic of Ireland international dived the other way.
“I thought about what might happen in the days before the semi-finals if it went to penalties,” said last summer’s signing from Dynamo Dresden when asked about that tension-filled finale at Hillsborough. “I was in the bath at the time.
“When I stepped up, I thought I might be a little bit nervous. But when I did step up on the night, I saw the whole crowd and them booing. It was such a nice moment for me and a fantastic feeling, they tried to make me small, but that doesn’t happen.
“I grew and felt bigger, and just put the ball in the net.”
It was such a nice moment for me and a fantastic feeling, they tried to make me small, but that doesn’t happen.Michael Hefele
Barry Bannan replied with a successful penalty to make it 2-1 to the Terriers after two penalties apiece. The next four were then scored before Jack Payne, shooting to win the match, was denied by Westwood.
David Wagner’s side, though, would not be denied as Danny Ward wrote his name into Huddersfield folklore by keeping out Fernando Forestieri’s effort.
“It was an unbelievable moment when Sheffield Wednesday’s final penalty was saved,” added the German defender. “We had gone 1-0 down (in normal time), got it back to 1-1 and then gone in front on the penalties.
“Our miss then gave them a chance so the emotions when Danny saved that penalty were huge. Unbelievable stuff, something I can’t describe. To go to Wembley and have the chance to reach the Premier League is a very big thing.
“We have a great team and a great character in the dressing room. You saw that in the semi-final; everyone was tired, but we kept going. It is not down to fitness and tactics, it is whether you want it more than the other. We showed this.
“Celebrating at the end was unbelievable. This is what we are playing for. We play for games like this, I dream about games like this. We are playing for a very big thing and our dream is still alive.”