Bayer Leverkusen booked their place in the final of the DFB Cup as goals from Moussa Diaby, Lucas Alario and Karim Bellarabi gave them a 3-0 win over fourth-tier side Saarbrücken in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
Leverkusen were deprived of star midfielder Kai Havertz due to injury, but they still dominated from the outset, controlling possession and forcing the home side to sit deep around their own penalty area. That pressure eventually took its toll after 11 minutes when Diaby skillfully scored on the volley from Kerem Demirbay’s pass over the top of the defence. Die Werkself doubled their advantage shortly afterwards when Demirbay’s cross from the left led to a mix-up between goalkeeper Daniel Batz and captain Manuel Zeitz, allowing Alario to pounce on the rebound and lash in from close range. Leverkusen continued to press after that, with Paulinho particularly lively in the final third, but they were unable to add to the scoreline before half-time.
Saarbrücken began the second half with renewed vigour, attacking their visitors more aggressively and higher up the pitch. Yet just as they appeared to be gaining in confidence, Leverkusen struck again. Diaby's run into the box was cut short, but Demirbay was first to the loose ball, cutting a pass back from the byline for substitute Bellarabi to stroke home. Lukas Kwasniok's side refused to give up, but the outcome was never in doubt after that and Paulinho twice went close to adding to the scoreline following good work from Kevin Volland, only to fire off target on each occasion. It ultimately mattered little, however, as Leverkusen comfortably sealed their place in a DFB Cup final for the first time since 2009, where they will meet the winner of the other semi-final between Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.
- Saarbrücken’s Kianz Froese is the competition’s top assist provider with four this season (same as Union Berlin’s Marius Bülter). The former Canada international is the first non-Bundesliga player to reach four in a campaign since data collection began.
- Leverkusen have scored in each of their last 19 cup matches at an average of 2.8 goals per game. They last failed to score against Bayern in the 2014/15 quarter-finals.
- Die Werkself’s only DFB Cup title came in 1993 with a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin’s reserves. They have never lost in 26 cup ties against teams from the fourth tier or lower.
- Leverkusen had 15 shots to Saarbrücken's six, and also had 80 per cent of possession.
- Saarbrücken Goalkeeper Daniel Batz saved five penalties in the quarter-final win over Düsseldorf. One came against Rouwen Hennings in normal time before a further four in the shootout. He’d also stopped one in the previous round against Karlsruhe.
- Saarbrücken were the first team from the fourth tier to reach the semi-finals of the DFB Cup. They have previously reached the final four three times, losing on each occasion to the eventual champions.
Saarbrücken: Batz – Barylla, Schorch (Bulic 87'), Uaferro, Müller (Mendler 68') – Jänicke (Froese 46'), Perdedaj (Breitenbach 69'), Zeitz (c), Jacob (Eisele 78') – Golley, Zellner
Unused subs: Castellucci, Vunguidica, Jurcher, Miotke,
Coach: Lukas Kwasniok
Leverkusen: Hradecky – Weiser, S. Bender (Dragovic 62'), Tapsoba (Tah 46'), Wendell – Aranguiz (c) (Palacios 70'), Demirbay – Diaby (Volland 62'), Paulinho, Wirtz (Bellarabi 46') - Alario
Unused subs: Özcan, Amiri, Baumgartlinger, Stanilewicz
Out: L. Bender (foot), Havertz (muscular)
Coach: Peter Bosz
As it happened!
Referee Guido Winkmann blows his whistle and it's all over! Leverkusen reach the DFB Cup final for the first time since 2009 after what was a comfortable victory on the night.
90' TWO ADDED MINUTES
Saarbrücken have their best chance of the game as we enter stoppage time, but Mendler drags a shot wide from close range with only Hradecky to beat.
89' LOVELY RUN FROM FROESE
The Saarbrücken midfielder charges down the right, shaking off the challenge of Palacios and sprinting toward the Leverkusen box. He tries to thread a pass to a teammate, but Hradecky is quick off his line to smother the danger.
87' LAST SUBSTITUTION
Bulic comes on for Schorch for the home team.
85' FOOT OFF THE PEDAL
Leverkusen were already in energy conservation mode, with a game away to Schalke coming up on Sunday, but they are now playing down the clock with 10 men to get the result over the line.
81' LEVERKUSEN DOWN TO 10 MEN
Bellarabi limps off in some discomfort having seemingly hurt his right hamstring. As Leverkusen have made all five of their substitutions, they will play the final 10 minutes with 10 men.
79' BRILLIANT FROM BELLARABI
Bellarabi shows his pace to dart into the box and his quick feet help him fashion a yard of space. He gets a shot away but Batz punches clear.
78' SUB FOR SAARBRÜCKEN
Another change for the home team as Eisele comes on for Jacob.
77' PAULINHO AGAIN!
Lovely play again from Volland, who's been excellent since coming on, in slipping another pass into the path of Paulinho. He's one-on-one with Batz and tries to curl a low shot into the far corner, but the goalkeeper reads his intentions and makes a superb save.
75' HOSTS PRESSING HIGH
Saarbrücken are giving it one last push in their bid to get a memorable goal against Bundesliga opposition, committing players high up the pitch to hound Leverkusen. No luck yet though.
72' PAULINHO MUST SCORE... BUT NO!
Lovely interplay on the edge of the box involving Volland, who slips a clever pass in for Paulinho. He has a clear sight of goal, around 16 yards out, but he slashes a powerful shot well over the bar when perhaps more accuracy was called up.
70' FINAL SUB FOR LEVERKUSEN
Leverkusen make their fifth change of the game as Palacios replaces Aranguiz in midfield.
69' TWO CHANGES FOR SAARBRÜCKEN
Mendler and Breitenbach take to the pitch for Müller and Perdedaj.
67' GREAT CHANCE FOR SAARBRÜCKEN
This is the best opening of the game for the home team as Golley gets an acrobatic volley to a cross from the right after sneaking ahead of Tah, but Hradecky makes a good save.
62' DOUBLE SUBSTITUTION
Two more subs for for Leverkusen as Dragovic replaces Bender at the back, while fit-again striker Volland comes on for Diaby.
58' GOAL! BELLARABI SCORES!
Diaby tries to dribble through the defence only to be crowded out, but Saarbrücken react slowly to the loose ball, allowing Demirbay to nip in. He gets to the byline and cuts the ball back for Bellarabi to rifle home Leverkusen's third.
56' AGGRESSIVE SAARBRÜCKEN
The fourth-division team are refusing to go down quietly here and there's a noticeable extra bite in their play this half. They're closing down the spaces much more quickly and are looking good.
54' CHAOS IN SAARBRÜCKEN BOX
Wendell floats in a cross from the left that the home defence struggles to deal with. It looks like it's going to bounce kindly for Alario, but there are too many bodies in the way for him to shoot and eventually Saarbrücken can clear.
52' WASTED CHANCE
Jacob does well to win a free-kick, shielding the ball well from Tah and drawing the foul. However, Golley takes the ensuing set piece but sends the ball sailing over the bar.
48' BIG CHANCE FOR BELLARABI
Bellarabi seems to be caught off guard at finding himself completely unmarked at the back post. Wendell picks him out with a superb crossfield pass, but Bellarabi volleys wide.
47' THREE CHANGES
Tah and Bellarabi have come on at the break for Tapsoba and Wirtz for the visitors. Saarbrücken have also made a substitute, bringing on Froese for Jänicke.
Leverkusen get the ball rolling once again.
So far so good for Leverkusen, who have been in complete control of the tie so far. Saarbrücken have defended well, but the visitors' quality has told at key moments. The home team haven't played a competitive game in 94 days due to the coronavirus outbreak, so tired legs could be a factor as the match wears on.
41' WEISER SHOT DEFLECTED
It's still pretty much one-way traffic towards the Saarbrücken goal and this time it's Weiser who has a go, picking up a loose ball just outside the box. It bounces nicely for him, but his shot is deflected wide
38' JUST WIDE FROM PAULINHO
Lovely interplay from Leverkusen on the edge of the Saarbrücken box, as Alario's pass is flicked on by Demirbay, sending Paulinho through. He's wide on the right-hand side of the penalty area and squeezes a shot past Batz, but it rolls just the wrong side of the post.
35' DEMIRBAY HEADER
Demirbay rises highest at the back post to meet a cross from the left, but Batz is equal to it.
34' PAULINHO CHANCE
Nice work from Diaby on the left before passing inside to Paulinho. He's in space a few yards outside the box and lets a shot fly, but it's straight at Batz and lacks the power to beat him from range.
30' CHANCE FOR WENDELL
Aranguiz sprays the ball wide from right to left to Wendell. He takes a touch to control before shooting from the edge of the penalty are, but it's deflected wide for a corner.
28' WIDE FROM PAULINHO
This is a similar chance to the one Diaby scored from, only with Paulinho on the end of Wendell's pass. The Brazilian chests the ball down in the box and shoots on the turn, but it flies wide.
25' LEVERKUSEN STILL PROBING
They may be 2-0 up but the visitors want to put this game to bed as soon as possible. They're not easing up at all, making their hosts chase the ball.
21' FIRST SHOT FOR SAARBRÜCKEN
Zellner has the home team's first effort on goal, but it's a weak shot from distance and is a simple save for Hradecky.
19' GOAL! ALARIO DOUBLES THE LEAD!
Daylight for Leverkusen! Demirbay's cross from the left wing isn't dealt with as Batz and Zeitz get in each other's way as they try to clear. The ball bounces down to Alario, who lashes in on the rebound with his left foot from a tight angle.
17' BATZ SAVES FROM ARANGUIZ
Wirtz drives forward to Leverkusen and guides the ball to Aranguiz, whose shot draws an excellent save from Saarbrücken goalkeeper Batz.
15' ANOTHER FREE-KICK FOR SAARBRÜCKEN
The hosts' tactics are becoming clear at set-pieces as they crowd the boz and try to get balls into their big players. Leverkusen have defended well so far though.
11' GOAL! DIABY WITH THE OPENER!
The visitors' pressure finally pays off and this is some finish from Diaby. He times his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and collect Demirbay's lofted pass over the top of the defence. It's a difficult ball to take as it drops over his shoulder on his weaker right foot, but Diaby does superbly to guide his volley past the goalkeeper.
8' RESPITE FOR SAARBRÜCKEN
The home side are able to take a breather as Tapsoba is booked for a foul following a Saarbrücken counter. They throw men forward into the box for the resultant free-kick, but Leverkusen are able to clear.
6' TWO HALF CHANCES FOR LEVERKUSEN
Saarbrücken are being pinned around the edge of their own penalty area, so it is no surprise that Leverkusen are trying their luck from distance. Diaby first has an effort charged down from the edge of the box, before Demirbay sees his rasping drive deflected out for a corner.
3' ALL LEVERKUSEN
The hosts ping the ball out of play almost straight away from kick-off, and since then Leverkusen have had the ball most of the time. They're stroking it around comfortably in midfield but have yet to make much progress through a packed home defence.
Here we go! Saarbrücken get the ball rolling!
BAYERN OR FRANKFURT THE PRIZE
The winner of today's game will face either reigning cup holders Bayern or the 2018 winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the final. Those two contest the other semi-final tomorrow.
While this is the teams' first ever meeting in the DFB Cup, they have played each other four times previously. The most recent was in the 1992/93 Bundesliga campaign, in which Saarbrücken won 3-1 at home and drew 1-1 away.
Before then they went head-to-head in 1985/86. Saarbrücken again won 3-1 at home, while Leverkusen triumphed 2-0 on their own patch.
LEVERKUSEN'S ROUTE TO THE SEMIS
Die Werkself overcame fourth-division opposition in the first round with a 4-1 win over Aachen, and defeated Paderborn 1-0 at the next stage. Victories over Stuttgart (Bundesliga 2) Union Berlin followed to set up this encounter.
SAARBRÜCKEN'S ROUTE TO THE SEMIS
Lukas Kwasniok's men have been pulling off upsets throughout this season's competition. They beat Bundesliga 2 side Jahn Regensburg in the first round, before knocking out Cologne in the next. That was followed by a penalty shootout win over second-tier outfit Karlsruhe in the last 16, and then the dramatic 7-6 shootout win over Fortuna Düsseldorf in the quarter-finals, in which goalkeeper Daniel Batz famously saved five penalties.
HELLO AND WELCOME!
The DFB Cup gets back underway today at the semi-final stage as fourth-tier side Saarbrücken take on Bayer Leverkusen. The Bundesliga side are the overwhelming favourites on paper, but Saarbrücken haven't got this far by accident!