Karlsruher SC and Erzgebirge Aue have it all to play for after a tame goalless draw in the first leg of their play-off for a place in the 2. Bundesliga next season.
The 3. Liga hosts created the better of the chances, but couldn’t make that count, however they did at least deny their guests an away goal as the tie moves to Saxony for the second leg on Tuesday evening.
Hosts start well but fail to get pulses racing
Hosts Karlsruhe were looking to gain promotion back to the 2. Bundesliga after just a year away, with Aue looking to retain their place at that level for a third season in succession. Karlsruhe coach Alois Schwartz had rested some of his key players for the weekend loss against Carl Zeiss Jena, with Benjamin Uphoff, Marcel Mehlem, Florent Muslija and Fabian Schleusener returned here. The only change for Aue from their controversial 1-0 defeat to SV Darmstadt 98, which condemned them to play this game, saw former Karlsruhe man Dennis Kempe replacing Sebastian Hertner.
The ‘Relegation’ matches between the second and third-tier sides have tended to be more competitive than their higher-league equivalent, as highlighted by victories for then-3. Liga sides SV Darmstadt 98, Würzburger Kickers and SSV Jahn Regensburg in recent years. And Karlsruhe indeed started brightly here, although apart from a shot from Marco Thiede that was saved by Aue’s goalkeeper and captain Martin Männel, the Violas did well to tame their threat.
The hosts would fade as the visitors gained a foothold on the game, ultimately leading to a cagey first half with both sides cancelled each other out. Kempe came close to scoring against his former side though, and in stunning style, meeting a bouncing ball with an overhead kick that unfortunately for him ended up going wide.
The fans could enjoy the May evening sunshine as they exchanged chants, but there was little to cheer on the pitch. Sören Bertram did head over a Christian Tiffert corner, but apart from the earlier Kempe chance that was about it for them, perhaps not surprising against the 3. Liga’s tightest defence. Meanwhile Mehlem created something out of nothing, only to be denied by Männel, but otherwise they, along with top scorer Schleusener, were quiet going forward.
Riese and Pourié clash only talking point of second half
Schleusener did get a sight of goal soon after half-time, after a mistake from Fabian Kalig, who had replaced an injured Calogero Rizzuto, however he put his shot into the side netting. A better chance came the way of Marvin Pourié, after a good ball to him, however he could only go wide as well. As for Aue, Bertram was at least able to create a chance for himself, running into the box from the right, but Uphoff blocked his attempt.
VAR is in use for this game, despite having never been used in either the second of third tiers, and it came into use when Philipp Riese appeared to put an elbow into Pourié, however his intent wasn’t clear enough to warrant a sending off so he got away with a yellow card.
As the minutes ticked slowly by, chances remained few and far between. Pourié and Schleusener combined for Karlsruhe, but the latter could only strike over the goal after reaching the penalty area. Bertram then had another opportunity for Aue, but his shot resulting in a straightforward save from Uphoff.
Karlsruhe kept plugging away in the later stages, but with little success, and the game would finish goalless. Hannes Drews’s side will back themselves in the second leg at home, but on the flip side, Karlsruhe will be the happier here with the clean sheet, not least because of the away goals rule.