Tireless Eintracht hold Chelsea
Eintracht Frankfurt produced a battling performance to draw 1-1 with Chelsea in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg.
In a pulsating game played in a deafening atmosphere inside the Commerzbank-Arena, Eintracht drew first blood when Luka Jovic headed Filip Kostic’s cross into the far corner. The Eagles were pegged back on the stroke of half-time, however, Pedro firing low past Kevin Trapp to leave the tie on a knife edge going into next week’s second leg.
Personnel: Back-to-back Europa League starts for Falette
Head coach Adi Hütter opted for two changes from Saturday’s goalless draw at home to Hertha Berlin, bringing in Simon Falette and Mijat Gacinovic for Jonathan de Guzman and the suspended Ante Rebic. Falette, making his second consecutive start in the competition, joined captain David Abraham and Martin Hinteregger in the Eagles’ back three, with Makoto Hasebe moving up into midfield.
First half: Jovic breaks deadlock
Maurizio Sarri’s side did not appear overawed by the spine-tingling atmosphere in the early stages, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and forcing Eintracht to wait patiently for the ball. Hütter’s charges gradually began to apply pressure, though, with Kostic seeing a shot blocked and Abraham firing over the bar from a good position. The deadlock was broken when Jovic cut across his marker to flick Kostic’s teasing delivery into the net via the far post, sparking ecstatic celebrations among the home supporters. Undeterred, the visitors responded well and went close to equalising through Pedro and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, before the former Barcelona man fizzed a low effort past Trapp to draw the Blues level in the final minute of the first half.
Second half: Eintracht hold firm
It was one-way traffic at the beginning of the second period as Chelsea pushed forward in search of a second away goal. Loftus-Cheek fired over the crossbar following a neat one-two with Pedro, before David Luiz slammed a dipping free-kick against Trapp’s crossbar from a central position. Hütter introduced Goncalo Paciencia with 20 minutes remaining to give Jovic more support in attack, but Sarri’s team continued to create the better openings as Loftus Cheek and Luiz both tested Trapp within minutes of each other. Paciencia went within a whisker of getting on the end of Danny Da Costa’s low cross and Abraham sent a free header over the bar in the closing stages, but there was no separating the two teams at the final whistle.
Summary: All to play for in London
Eintracht came under intense pressure in the second half in particular, but Hütter will be proud of his players’ performance against the Premier League giants. If the Eagles can produce the same battling qualities in London next week, they stand a good chance of securing a place in the final in Baku.
Trapp - Abraham, Hinteregger, Falette – Hasebe - Da Costa, Rode, Fernandes (Paciencia 73’), Kostic - Gacinovic (Willems 90+2’) - Jovic
1-0 Jovic (23’)
1-1 Pedro (45’)