Frankfurt beats Leipzig as fans vent fury over Monday games
By CIARAN FAHEY
Feb. 19, 2018
BERLIN (AP) — Eintracht Frankfurt came from behind to beat Leipzig 2-1 as its fans vented their fury in the first of five contentious Monday night games to be played in the Bundesliga.
Timothy Chandler and Kevin-Prince Boateng cancelled out Jean-Kevin Augustin's early strike as Frankfurt overtook Leipzig to go third and deny the visiting side the chance to reclaim second.
But the game will be remembered for the charged atmosphere as the home fans vented their fury against the German soccer federation (DFB) for staging games on a Monday night.
Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac said he understood their frustration.
"Because in the end we play for ourselves but also for the supporters," Kovac said.
One supporter died after a heart attack in the closing stages of the game.
"Our thoughts are with his family and relatives," the club said.
Fans left the terraces and occupied the inner area to protest before kickoff, while others displayed banners blasting the DFB, including "Football-mafia DFB." Kickoff was delayed by six minutes and the game began to a cacophony of whistles from the home supporters.
"It was peaceful and then everyone went back. It was OK," injured Frankfurt forward Alexander Meier said at halftime.
Augustin fired the visitors ahead early after Konrad Laimer played a one-two with Diego Demme to set him up. Few Leipzig fans were there to celebrate.
The whistling finally subsided in the 22nd when Chandler equalized, poking the ball home from close range after a corner, four minutes before Ante Rebic set up Boateng to complete the turnaround.
Fans resumed their whistle-protest once the celebrations died down.
Leipzig was awarded a penalty for an apparent foul by Rebic on Marcel Sabitzer, but it was taken back after video analysis. Sabitzer was marginally offside in the buildup.
Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl responded with sarcastic applause.
The half ended with a scuffle involving players from both sides after Makoto Hasebe reacted with annoyance to Naby Keita's late challenge. Referee Felix Zwayer calmed tempers without showing any cards.
The second half was delayed when Frankfurt fans threw thousands of tennis balls onto the pitch and covered one of the goals with toilet paper. The club was apparently aware in advance of the action as a large team of helpers came out to clear the pitch.
Not everyone accepted the protest.
"We're freezing there on the pitch and just want to play football," Leipzig midfielder Stefan Ilsanker said.
The fans' ill temper transferred onto the pitch, with Zwayer showing six yellow cards in a hard-fought second half alone. His final whistle finally ended the fans' whistling.
Fans of teams across the league have made their opposition to Monday night games known and the protests are set to continue. Many Dortmund fans have indicated they will boycott their home game against Augsburg next week, when again few visiting supporters are expected.
"Regardless of whether schoolkids, students or workers ... for many fans a visit to the stadium on a Monday evening entails unreasonable strain," said Dortmund fans in a statement highlighting the difficulty for away fans in particular.
"The DFL (German soccer league) has to also allow away fans the possibility of a stadium visit out of respect for fans and fan culture."