Europa League: Role reversal leaves Eintracht Frankfurt down but not out

Rarely can a player hope they’re as wrong as Kevin Trapp will on Friday morning. “This match in Strasbourg will define the season,” said the Eintracht Frankfurt keeper ahead of a 1-0 defeat in France that leaves the Eagles’ hopes of making the Europa League group stages in serious jeopardy.

A scrappy first half strike from Kevin Zohi settled the match in favor of the men from the Alsace, who went bankrupt and dropped to the fifth tier of French football in 2011 before winning an unlikely League Cup title in March after a series of giantkillings.

Adi Hütter’s Bundesliga outfit struggled early on and though they got a measure of control in the second half, they looked worryingly toothless. If Trapp was right, this could be a long season.

The halftime removal of Ante Rebic, whose hat-trick saved Frankfurt from an embarrassing German Cup exit earlier this month, meant that none of the club’s three attacking stars from last season’s run to the last four was on the pitch as they searched for an equalizer. Rebic and departed pair Luka Jovic and Sebastian Haller contributed 16 goals between them in Europe last term.

Rebic’s substitution was not injury-related, with Hütter stating the Croatian’s forward’s performance “just will not do” while lamenting that his side “were not ready, we did not move at all up front”. The Austrian coach later added that the second half was at least an improvement.

As well as the potency that was lacking in France, the presence of Frankfurt’s numerous, raucous and colorful fans, whose chereos impressed onlookers across Europe, was a key factor in their remarkable run to the semifinals. 

On Thursday, the home side, who came 11th in Ligue Un last term, stepped up with an impressive effort of their own on the terraces (see below) while also showing a few of the same qualities Frankfurt are renowned for on the pitch. This was a battling display marked with dashes of quality and a commitment that can sometimes overcome more accomplished sides. 

Despite the disappointment, which Hütter and his men will need to overcome quickly with a trip to Leipzig coming up on Sunday, Frankfurt have been here before. A Joao Felix-inspired 4-2 loss to Benfica in Lisbon last season left them on the brink of quarterfinal exit before a stirring comeback at a rowdy Commerzbank Arena.

Though the deficit is less this time round, the lack of an away goal makes next Thursday’s second leg a tough task while Hütter’s verdict on the performance of Rebic could become an issue for the club. They’ve come through those before but now the Eagles may need a new goalscoring hero to emerge. They need to prove their goalkeeper wrong.

  • Union Berlin 0-4 RB Leipzig

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Union Berlin 0-4 RB Leipzig

    Bundesliga newcomers Union were brought back to earth with a bang as RB Leipzig steamrolled the capital club. Just seconds after the end of an atmosphere boycott from the home fans, RB Leipzig took the lead and found themselves 3-0 up at halftime. Julian Nagelsmann’s side were impressive, whereas Union looked out of place. There are 33 games to go, but the newcomers have to get to work.

  • Fußball Bundesliga Eintracht Frankfurt - TSG Hoffenheim (Getty Images/Bongarts/M. Hangst)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 Hoffenheim

    A goal from Martin Hinteregger after just 35 seconds proved enough for Frankfurt to make a winning start to the new season. Filip Kostic excelled and Frankfurt could and perhaps should have scored more, but that didn’t stop them securing the three points. Alfred Schreuder’s side might have grabbed an equalizer, but Ishak Belfodil’s header went wide off his shoulder.

  • Paco Alcacer and Dortmund teammates celebrate a goal. (Reuters/L. Kuegeler)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Borussia Dortmund 5-1 Augsburg

    The visitors stunned Dortmund with a first-minute opening goal, but Augsburg’s hopes of just a fourth Bundesliga win at the Signal Iduna Park soon evaporated. Paco Alcacer scored two and set another up as Dortmund cruised to a big opening-day win, claiming an early lead over Bayern Munich in the process. Axel Witsel also stood out as a creative force in midfield.

  • Dodi Lukebakio gives a high-five to Vladimir Darida after scoring the equalizer (Getty Images/Bongarts/D. Kopatsch)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Bayern Munich 2-2 Hertha Berlin

    In his league debut, Hertha coach Ante Covic led his side to a draw with Bayern Munich. The defending champions drew first blood through Robert Lewandowski, the first goal of the new season. But goals from Dodi Lukebakio (left) and Marco Grujic swung the advantage in Hertha’s favor. A Lewandowski penalty leveled the score, but the dropped points on opening night were Bayern’s first since 2011.

  • Kai Havertz celebrates with Charles Aranguiz after scoring to make it 2-1 for Leverkusen. (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Paderborn

    Young star Kai Havertz started the season much as he finished the last one, scoring a classy, chipped, left-footed goal to open his 2019-20 account. But newly promoted underdogs Paderborn proved as dangerous in attack as they did last season in the second division. In the second half, Kevin Volland netted the fifth goal of the game and the Werkself held on for all three points.

  • Schalke goalie Alexander Nübel claims the ball, as Borussia Mönchengaldbach's Marcus Thuram jumps with him in an attempt to head it. (Imago Images/U. Kraft)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Borussia Mönchengladbach 0-0 Schalke

    Of the two opponents, visitors Schalke are more liable to be satisfied with a point given their struggles last season. Both captains were keepers in this game, Yann Sommer for Gladbach and Schalke’s 22-year-old Alexander Nübel, and neither conceded. Perhaps the best chance fell to Schalke in the first half, but Belgian Benito Raman failed to make good contact on an excellent ball over the defense.

  • Werder's Maximilian Eggestein looking disconsolate after a Düsseldorf goal. (Imago Images/Nordphoto)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Werder Bremen 1-3 Düsseldorf

    Despite losing key contributors like Dodi Lukebakio in the summer, Fortuna Düsseldorf kicked off with an impressive away win in Bremen. The hosts had an early goal disallowed for offside and would never lead during the remainder of the game. Rouwen Hennings, Kenan Karaman and Kaan Ayhan all scored, while Bremen’s Maximilian Eggestein netted a consolation goal just after the break.

  • Jonathan Schmid of Sport-Club Freiburg and Danny Latza of 1. FSV Mainz 05 battle for the ball during the Bundesliga match between Sport-Club Freiburg and 1. FSV Mainz 05 at Schwarzwald-Stadion on August 17, 2019 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. (Getty Images/Bongarts/A. Hassenstein)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Freiburg 3-0 Mainz

    Believe it or not, this game was goalless after 80 minutes! Freiburg ran riot in the closing minutes to claim all three points. Substitute Lucas Höler broke the deadlock moments after coming on, Jonathan Schmid added a second, and Luka Waldschmidt finished from the spot to complete Mainz’s late capitulation.

  • Wout Weghorst of Wolfsburg celebrates his goal. (Getty Images/Bongarts/M. Rose)

    Bundesliga Matchday 1 in pictures

    Wolfsburg 2-1 Cologne

    Cologne’s Bundesliga return began with defeat on the road in the Autostadt. Maximilian Arnold put Wolfsburg in front early and Wout Weghorst doubled the lead in the second half to secure the points for the Wolves. The target man from the Netherlands netted 17 in 34 league appearances in 2018-19. Simon Terrode, top scorer in the second tier last season, pulled one back late for Cologne.

    Author: Mark Hallam


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