Protesting Nuremberg fans return on time to see equalizer

BERLIN (AP) — Promoted Nuremberg drew 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen to stay just out of the Bundesliga relegation zone amid more protests against unpopular Monday night games.

Though it was the first to be played on a Monday this season, the home fans made their displeasure known by refusing to take their places in the north stand of Nuremberg’s Max-Morlock-Stadion.

Heavy rain likely eased their decision to stay away for the first half. Some Leverkusen ultras also protested by staying away altogether and organizing a Christmas market instead of traveling to the game.

Last season’s Monday night games were also marked by extensive protests. The German soccer league (DFL) decided recently to scrap them from next season.

Leverkusen made the better start and duly took the lead on the half-hour mark through Kai Havertz. The 19-year-old Havertz had plenty of time to sweep the ball inside the right corner after an attempted clearance from Nuremberg goalkeeper Fabian Bredlow.

The home fans ended their protest and finally took their places when Georg Margreitter gave them reason to cheer with a deflected equalizer in the 56th.

The goal kept Nuremberg ahead of Stuttgart on goal difference, though the side remains in trouble after just two wins from 13 games.

Leverkusen, which missed the chance to close within four points of Hoffenheim in the last European qualification place, finished the game with 10 players after Karim Bellarabi left the field late due to injury. Heiko Herrlich, who was celebrating his 47th birthday, had already made his three substitutions.

Bibiana Steinhaus, the Bundesliga’s first and only female referee, took charge of her first game this season after recovering from a foot injury.