Eintracht begin 2018 with a draw on home turf
Eintracht Frankfurt kicked off 2018 in the Bundesliga with a 1-1 draw on home turf against SC Freiburg.
After a dominant first-half showing in which Sebastien Haller scored his seventh Bundesliga goal of the season, Eintracht then conceded within six minutes of the restart as Robin Koch headed in from a corner. Shell-shocked after the equaliser, the Eagles struggled in the second period, but recovered enough to end the better side without managing to find a late winner.
Team news: Abraham, Falette and Rebic miss out; Mascarell returns
With Simon Falette banned and David Abraham still injured, Eintracht coach Niko Kovac was forced into some defensive alterations. Makoto Hasebe dropped into the centre of the three-man backline, with Carlos Salcedo and Marco Russ alongside him. Timothy Chandler and Marius Wolf started in the wing-back roles, with Omar Mascarell lining up in central midfield for the first time this season after missing several months through injury. With Ante Rebic also not fit enough to be included, Branimir Hrgota began up top alongside Haller.
First half: End-to-end opening before Haller converts
It took the Eagles no time at all to shake off any winter cobwebs and Kovac's side created the first chance of the game after only six minutes, but Kevin-Prince Boateng failed to convert Wolf's corner despite being in acres of space at the back post. The next opportunities also went begging soon afterwards, Freiburg keeper Alexander Schwolow pulling off an excellent double save to deny Haller and then Hrgota on the follow-up. It wasn't all one-way traffic, though, and at the other end Wolf was forced to clear off the line after Russ almost put past Lukas Hradecky in the Frankfurt goal.
That scare aside, the Eagles continued to impress and deservedly took the lead in the 28th minute when Chandler headed Mascarell's searching long ball across goal and into the six-yard box, where Haller was on hand to poke past Schwolow.
Second half: Freiburg strike early
Freiburg coach Christian Streich responded to his side's below-par first-half effort by introducing Mohamed Dräger in place of Bartosz Kapustka after the restart. The visitors improved immediately and it took only six minutes of the second period for the equaliser to arrive, Koch rising highest in the box to meet a corner. There was a suspicion of offside in the build-up, but neither referee Sascha Stegemann nor the video assistant referee deemed visiting striker Nils Petersen to be in an active position or obstructing Hradecky.
In response to the Freiburg leveller, Kovac replaced Hrgota with Marc Stendera and Eintracht immediately regained control in midfield. With the substitute and Mascarell teaming up in the centre, the hosts upped the ante in search of a winner late on. Substitute Danny Da Costa's wonderful right-wing cross evaded everyone inside the box, before Haller then headed wide from close range moments later. Another wicked Da Costa centre created the final chance of the game, but – sliding in at the back post – Boateng agonisingly missed the ball by inches and the hosts had to settle for a point.
Summary: A fair result
For the first time in Bundesliga history, a Freiburg visit to Frankfurt ended in a draw. It was, in truth, a fair result, with the Eagles better in the first half and the Black Forest side on top in the second period. The return of Mascarell in midfield meant Eintracht retained possession much better, but ultimately Haller's first-half strike was not enough to secure a third home win of the season.
Hradecky – Salcedo, Hasebe, Russ (Da Costa 78') – Chandler, Mascarell, Boateng, Gacinovic (Barkok 85'), Wolf – Hrgota (Stendera 68'), Haller
1-0 Haller (28')
1-1 Koch (51')
A good first half from the Eagles, but we struggled to break down the @scfreiburg defence in the second period and take a point in our first @Bundesliga_EN game of 2018. #SGE #SGESCF 1-1 pic.twitter.com/TAwtz8LVPF— Eintracht Frankfurt (@eintracht_eng) January 13, 2018