VÖLKLINGEN, Germany — Fourth-division Saarbrücken's record-breaking run to the German Cup semifinals came to an end with a 3-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen in an empty stadium on Tuesday.
The coronavirus pandemic deprived Saarbrücken of the home crowd which had roared on its team as it knocked out four clubs from higher divisions, becoming the first club from such a low league to reach a cup semifinal.
Saarbrücken had to win a regional cup last year to even qualify for this season's German Cup. It was playing for the first time since March because its season in the South-West Regional League was abandoned amid the pandemic.
The defence showed signs of rust for Leverkusen's goals.
First Kerem Demirbay played a pass over the top for Moussa Diaby to sprint behind Saarbrücken's static defence and jab the ball into the net. Lucas Alario was gifted the second goal when Saarbrücken's goalkeeper and defender misunderstood one another and collided when trying to intercept a cross.
Karim Bellarabi made it 3-0 in the 58th after the Saarbrücken defence hesitated too long in clearing the ball.
Canadian international midfielder Kianz Froese came on to start the second half for Saarbrucken. The 24-year-old came up through the Vancouver Whitecaps ranks before joining Fortuna Dusseldorf in early 2017. He moved to Saarbrucken last July.
Born in Cuba to a Canadian father and Cuban mother, Froese grew up in Cuba and Winnipeg. He has won two senior caps for Canada, debuting at 19 years old against Ghana in October 2015.
Froese came into the game with four assists in Saarbrucken's cup run.
German fan groups have frequently protested against the game's governing body since the Bundesliga restarted last month in empty stadiums, accusing it of prioritizing big teams' finances over the health of the game as a whole. Saarbrücken's supporters were no different.
“Empty stands, full cash registers,” one large banner read in a message aimed at the German soccer federation and the Bundesliga's governing body. "Your business is still ill.”
Bayern Munich and Canadian Alphonso Davies host Eintracht Frankfurt at the Allianz Arena in the other DFB Cup semifinal on Wednesday. Bayern is bidding to reach the final, slated for July 4 in Berlin, for the 24th time.
The two teams were supposed to meet seven weeks ago but the semifinals were delayed by the pandemic.
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— With files from The Canadian Press.