German Cup: Niko Kovac guides Frankfurt to Berlin for Bayern Munich showdown | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.04.2018
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German Cup: Niko Kovac guides Frankfurt to Berlin for Bayern Munich showdown

Luka Jovic scored the only goal of the game as ten-man Eintracht Frankfurt held on to beat Schalke and reach a second straight cup final. Niko Kovac's Frankfurt will meet Bayern Munich, Kovac's next employers, on May 19.

Schalke 0-1 Frankfurt
(Jovic 75')
Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen

A solitary strike from Luka Jovic sent Eintracht Frankfurt into the German Cup final for the second successive year after a cagey semifinal against Schalke.

The Berlin showdown on May 19 will be Niko Kovac’s final game in charge of Frankfurt before he heads to Bavaria to coach the Bundesliga champions next season, in what will be a fascinating subplot in the final stages of Bayern’s treble-chasing season.

Read more: Müller leads Bayern's ruthless rout of Leverkusen

Schalke went into the second semifinal as favorites having won eight of their previous nine games, including last weekend’s big win over Ruhr rivals Dortmund that saw them tighten their grip on second place in the Bundesliga.

Frankfurt had just been crushed 4-1 at Leverkusen and question marks hung over the impact Kovac’s appointment as Bayern’s next coach had had on the Frankfurt dressing room. But Frankfurt’s resilient effort in Gelsenkirchen put those ideas to bed.

The hosts were the better side for long periods but struggled to create many opportunities. The game came to life when Lukas Hradecky kept out Guido Burgstaller’s header at the far post and Daniel Caligiuri saw a deflected shot roll just wide.

Schalke seemed the more likely to break through in the second half, too. Again, Burgstaller was the threat when his shot was kept out by Hradecky, who made another fine save from Yevhen Konoplyanka moments later.

Those misses proved costly as Frankfurt took the lead soon after with their first serious attack of the game. Jonathan de Guzman’s corner from the left was met by Jovic, who stuck out a boot and glanced the ball into the far corner — right in front of a jubilant away end.

Frankfurt had to survive the final nine minutes with ten men, when Gelson Fernandes was red-carded for a foul on Leon Goretzka. The referee had initially brandished a yellow, but after a consultation with VAR showed the substitute a straight red — he had only been on the field for 33 seconds.

The final few minutes were frantic. Schalke threw everything at Frankfurt, with Ralf Fährmann even staying in the Frankfurt box for successive corners. Three minutes into stoppage time, Schalke had the ball in the net through Franco di Santo but his goal was chalked off for handball, much to the ire of the fans and players, who surrounded the referee in somewhat unedifying fashion.

Frankfurt held firm and the relief was tangible at the final whistle. Kovac has guided them to Berlin again, but this time the focus will very much be on him and whether he can deny his next employers a double, or even a treble.

As it happened:

- Niko Kovac to ARD: "I think the first half was a chess game... In the second half, there were chances but for too little for a home side."

On the beer with Bobic: "Whatever happens, we drink a beer, or a wine, because we're good friends and not just when we win."

- Horrible sight. Fans have clashed in the stadium. Details aren't clear, but it doesn't look good. Punches being thrown, and all sorts of nonsense. Leaves a bad taste.

- Bobic added that he and Niko would have a beer after this one. "It was that way before, and it will be that way in the future too. Everything between Niko and I is fine."

-- Lukas Hradecky has been named man of the match: "It's nice to contribute to the team's performance today, but this award is for the team today." The Finn was mute on his future though, but Bobic confirmed moments later that the keeper would be leaving the club at the end of the season.

-- Fredi Bobic on Gelson Fernandes' red card and the use of VAR. "It's no longer the football I know." Bobic feels the tackle was from the front and only worth a yellow.

-- Domenico Tedesco has also joined the set. Shares his disappointment but also congratulates Frankfurt. Fredi Bobic is also there. "Getting back to Berlin for the second time in a row is really special for Eintracht Frankfurt."

-- Christian Heidel to ARD afterwards: "It's not a handball for me, but it doesn't matter. We should have scored earlier, but Frankfurt made it over the line so congratulations to them."

RESULT Time is up! FRANKFURT BEAT SCHALKE 1-0 AND ARE HEADING BACK TO BERLIN!

Well, it took a long time to get going but this one was decided by a brilliant goal from Luka Jovic and a handful of top saves by Lukas Hradecky. Schalke are left thinking of what might have been really. Domenico Tedesco now has to deal with loss and after the game he chatted clearly to his players about what comes next. For Frankfurt, there's a return to Berlin - where they lost last year to Borussia Dortmund. Cup football eh? What drama!

90+5' — Wow! Now Schalke want a penalty for handball by Danny da Costa. Tough to see, but I don't think so. Burgstaller then gets called for a foul. Time running out...

90+3' — They score! Schalke have scored! The ball bounces, it's cleared, cross comes back in and di Santo rifles home. BUT! di Santo controls it with his arm. The former Chelsea striker is furious and lets the referee know about it. Looks like the right call though. They saved all the drama until the end in this one, didn't they?

90+2' — Schalke are pushing. They win a corner. Fährmann comes up. Is this the moment? It's near the keeper, but it's cleared. Schalke try to reload. Another corner...

90+1' — Frankfurt take the corner short. Schalke clear it. Six minutes of added time to come. Six!

90' — Fabian has a go from range and this one is better than the last! Fährmann has to push it out for a corner. Fabian then stretches out his cramp, which Schalke are naturally unhappy about.

88' — Burgstaller wants a penalty, but not enough there. Schalke have had chances today, but Frankfurt's niggly, uncomfortable and yet effective style has them within touching distance of returning to Berlin, again.

85' — Fernandes was on the pitch for 33 seconds, I think. If Frankfurt hold on here, and what a win it would be all things considered, then they have their own keeper to thank. Lukas Hradecky has made some big saves in this game. All of Schalke's players in Frankfurt's half. Naldo on the halfway line. Everyone else forward. Desperation time...

81' — RED CARD! Gelson Fernandes has been on the pitch for a matter of seconds (he just replaced Mascarell) and he is late on Goretzka, clipping his ankle. It's yellow, but VAR says otherwise and after review Hartmann sends Fernandes off. That'll make for an interesting final eight minutes...

80' — If it stays this way, you know the headlines of the final will be as follows...

77' — Schalke equalize! But Burgstaller is a long way offside and so it stays at 1-0 Frankfurt.

75' — GOAL! 1-0 Frankfurt (Jovic) The next corner ends in a goal! Jovic runs to the near post and flicks the ball to the back post with the outside of his boot. A magical moment worthy of changing any game! Game on now! Schalke have to go for it.

73' — That chance has breathed some life into the game, but it has too often slipped back into it's conservatism. Fabian flies in for a corner, but it's past him. The next corner...

69' — CHANCES! Best chance of the game. Caligirui goes on a run that gets him into the box. He stumbles, but Bugstaller is on the loose ball. He shoots but Hradecky makes a brilliant save to deny him. A minute later, Schalke come forward again, Goretzka finds Konoplyanka running into the box but Hradecky is there again. Big saves at a big time in the game.

66' — Burgstaller flashes a low cross across goal, but no one is there. The resulting corner (the cross was deflected in the end) is cleared to Bentaleb, but his long, low drive is easy for Hradecky.

62' — This is a struggle. Frankfurt waste a corner and Schalke can't take advantage of the counterattack. They say a goal does a game good, and boy is that the case here tonight. At this rate, Bayern Munich are going to have a lot of fun whoever they play in the final.

56' — Fabian has a go from range. It flies over the bar. An attempt, at least.

53' — In an attempt to spring life into this one, Tedesco brings Konoplyanka on for Pjaca. Scored in the derby, perhaps he'll repeat that feat tonight? Harit gets booked for a late tackle. Otherwise, the second has started as the first ended.

46' — Schalke get us restarted. One goal might well settle this. That being said, the game will have to get closer to the box for that to happen (I think).

HALFTIME

Not much in this one. In truth, it's been as gritty and tight as expected. Yes, that's the diplomatic way of saying it hasn't been a very good game. There were eight goals in last night's game. We haven't seen eight shots in this one yet. Extra time beckons.

45+1' — Lots of talk about nothing here. Halftime might as well be blown. Fährmann gets a drop ball after coming out to claim it and clattered fairly into Jovic in the process. Could have just played on really. All a bit silly.

43' — Well, this is a tough sight. Kevin-Prince Boateng can't continue. That knock in the groin from Marko Pjaca earlier left him limping and so Frankfurt's spirited leader has to come off (to whistles from the home crowd). Could be a game changer. He has his head in his hands. Tough not to be a part of it.

42' — You know, not much has been made of the fact that Leon Goretzka hasn't played that well since the news of his move to Bayern. Not much made of it, but it has shown tonight. Hasn't really been in the game. Schalke overhit another pass, Frankfurt clear.

38' — Things have returned to normal. Frankfurt keeping the ball for a bit, then Schalke doing their bit. The stadium announcer at the Veltins Arena even has the time to announce the number plate of someone's car that needs moving. Good to know.

32' — CHANCES! Sometimes it just takes a while. Ball into the box is just behind Harit, but Caligirui gets to it and Abraham deflects it just wide. Nearly an own goal! From the following corner, Hradecky makes a brilliant reflex save to keep Guido Burgstaller's header from creeping in at the back post. The game is alive! 

27' — Schalke want a free kick but don't get it. Frankfurt get one but don't use it. The game in two sentences right there ladies and gentlemen.

23' — We have passed the sparring stage of this game and it is safe to say this promises to be a long, tense evening if this is set to continue. So far, sloppy use of the ball and a greater fear of error than drive for success leaves the game halfway to nowhere.

18' — Boateng, who has already taken one knock, isn't happy after a hefty tackle by Nabil Bentaleb. There's a battle to keep an eye on tonight. Frankfurt holding it up, trying to draw Schalke out but Schalke's defensive unit stays disciplined.

13' — Free kick from Caligiuri, Kehrer gets to it with a diving header but it's over and he's offside. An insight into the game as a whole so far, really.

11' — Both sides giving away possession too much here. Sloppy play from two sides nervous to make a costly mistake in a semifinal.

7' — A lovely long all is knocked down and Jovic takes it in his stride before shooting low towards goal. Easy for Fährmann, but the first sign of openness in this one. Been a little tentative in the early stages.

5' — Niko Kovac, with the jumper over the shoulders (he'll fit in just fine in Munich), strides around his technical area early on. Then has some strong words for referee Robert Hartmann about an early free kick decision out wide. Looks and sounds the part.

1' — Frankfurt get us underway!

-- An amazing choreography frmo the Schalke fans ahead of this one. An homage to Schalke's mining roots.

-- When asked by ARD whether he would return to the stands in the case of a victory, Domenico Tedesco said no. A special moment not to be repeated. Tedesco added: "We haven't achieved anything yet this season." That is quite the statement.

-- All eyes on Kevin-Prince Boateng tonight. The 31-year-old is a former Royal Blue, but has called his time at the club the toughest of his career. With a point to prove tonight in Gelsenkirchen, Boateng is keen to continue his good form and keep the smile on his face.

-- Lots of talk ahead of this one about the relationship woes in Frankfurt. Fredi Bobic and Niko Kovac are good friends, but the last week has clearly troubled the players and all at the club. A win tonight has been labeled the only possible solution, but Niko Kovac tells ARD beforehand that the atmosphere in his team is great and the lads who made the final last year know what it takes to get there again.

Read more: Hoeness hits back at Frankfurt over Kovac announcement

-- The teams are in! Mascarell makes his return for Frankfurt after two months out. Russ and Jovic are also back in the starting eleven. Tedesco makes only one change from the derby win, starting Marko Pjaca over Yevhen Konoplyanka.

Schalke XI: Fährmann - Stambouli, Naldo, Kehrer - Caligiuri, Goretzka, Bentaleb, Schöpf - Harit, Pjaca - Burgstaller

Frankfurt XI: Hradecky - Abraham, Hasebe, Russ - Willems, Mascarell, de Guzman, Wolf - Boateng, Fabian - Jovic

-- Good evening! Well, after Bayern Munich's destruction of Leverkusen last night it's time to find out who will join them in the German Cup final on May 19th. Schalke are unrecognisable under Domenico Tedesco this season and come into this one fresh off a derby win. Frankfurt, on the other hand, lost heavily in Leverkusen and look a side troubled by the departure of their current coach. It could be a gritty one tonight...

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