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Frankfurt go third as fans stage huge protest

February 19, 2018

Eintracht Frankfurt came from behind to beat RB Leipzig and go third in the Bundesliga. But the game will be remembered for a large protest by Frankfurt fans that saw them throw thousands of tennis balls on the pitch.

Deutschland Fussball 1 Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt vs RB Leipzig
Image: imago/J. Huebner

Eintracht Frankfurt 2-1 RB Leipzig, Commerzbank-Arena
(Chandler 22', Boateng 26' — Augustin 13')

If Monday night football is to become a regular thing in the Bundesliga, then future games will have trouble living up to the drama and sheer entertainment that this game served up.

Kick off was delayed at the start of both halves due to a large-scale protest by Frankfurt fans against the scheduling of Monday night football in the Bundesliga. While some Bundesliga games have been played on a Monday before, this was the first time a game has been scheduled specifically in the timeslot. And it didn't go down well.

Once the peaceful protest was brought under control, there was a game to be played — and this was a game that had nearly everything amid a feverish atmosphere.

1. Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt vs RB Leipzig | Protest Montagsspiele
Paly was delayed at the start of both halves as tennis balls and toilet paper were thrown on to the field.Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Roland

Frankfurt on form

RB Leipzig were looking for a win that would see them reclaim second place from Borussia Dortmund and they took the lead early on through Augustin, who finished smartly into the bottom corner after a fine run and assist by Konrad Laimer, who had exchanged passes neatly with Diego Demme in the build-up.

But the lead didn't last long. Frankfurt restored parity through Timothy Chandler, who was in the right place at the right time to prod the ball home from close range after Leipzig made heavy weather of clearing a corner.

Read more: Why Frankfurt fans are protesting against Monday night football

Frankfurt continued to commit plenty of players forward to every attack and their gung-ho style paid off four minutes later when Rebic raced down the left wing and saw his cross stabbed as far as Kevin-Prince Boateng, whose first-time finish left Peter Gulacsi with no chance.

But the main drama of the half was still to come. Leipzig were awarded a penalty when Rebic appeared to tangle with Sabitzer — but yet again this weekend VAR was consulted and ruled against the award of the penalty, despite replays suggesting a tangle of legs in the box that would have warranted a spot-kick.

Tempers were rising by the end of the half and as the whistle was blown to bring to a close an absorbing half of football, the referee was forced to separate several players when a melee ensued after Hasebe reacted to a late challenge by Naby Keita.

Tennis balls

Once more, the focus moved from the football to the protests as Frankfurt fans threw thousands of tennis balls onto the field and covered one of the goals in toilet paper to make another point against the DFL's scheduling of Monday night games. An army of tennis ball removers were tasked with clearing the playing surface, which delayed kick off by at least another five minutes.

Deutschland Fussball 1 Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt vs RB Leipzig
Timothy Chandler celebrates hsi equalizer for Frankfurt, who scored twice in four minutesImage: imago/J. Huebner

With the Frankfurt fans making the atmosphere as hostile as possible, the second half was a lot scrappier as the yellow card count mounted to eight, with six of those for Frankfurt players. But perhaps that was a sign of the commitment and aggression shown by Niko Kovac's men, who simply refused to be beaten.

The game remained opened though and although Leipzig lost Keita to what appeared to be a hamstring injury, Ralph Hasenhüttl threw Emil Forsberg and Timo Werner into the action, but neither were able to turn the tide as Frankfurt held on for a significant win in their quest for Champions League football.

They go third, a point behind Borussia Dortmund, and while much of the post-match reaction will focus on the protests that delayed the game, the plaudits should go to a team who have won three of their last four Bundesliga games and are finally delivering consistently.