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Sports

Frankfurt fightback flounders in Champions League, Freiburg hold out at Estoril

In Europa League action, Eintracht Frankfurt looked as though they might make a dramatic comeback against Maccabi Tel Aviv, only to lose 4-2. Later, Freiburg somehow held out to grab a 0-0 away draw in Estoril.

Frankfurt struggled to maintain possession from the start against Tel Aviv, frequently losing the ball and leaving themselves open to counterattack.

The Israelis punished the Frankfurters' lack of precision in the 14th minute, when Nikola Mitrovic lifted the ball into the danger zone. Defender Anderson Bamba tried to leap for it but came inexplicably undone, allowing Eran Zahavi the room he needed to finish.

The second came in the 30th minute as Omri Ben Harush released a curling cross from the left. Barak Itzhaki leapt to plant the ball away with his head.

Frankfurt, already out of ideas, now looked chaotic. In the 35th minute, Zahavi found himself shielding the ball in the box, nudging it for Itzhaki to put away composedly into the right corner of goal to make it 3-0 to the Israelis.

As the first half ticked down, Frankfurt organized themselves a little more to achieve some very necessary damage limitation, going into half time with at least no more goals against them.

In the second half the Israelis sat back a little more, hoping to catch Frankfurt on the break.

Green shoots of hope

Instead, Frankfurt got themselves back into it with two goals in rapid succession, starting in the 63rd minute. Wolfsburg loan player Srdan Lakic got himself onto the end of a lofted cross from Stephan Schröck on the right. Although the resultant header wasn't emphatic, it somehow bounced and bobbled over the line to give Frankfurt a sliver of hope.

Srdjan Lakic of Eintracht Frankfurt vies for the ball with Nikola Mitrovic (Photo: EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN)

It was Lakic who put meat on the bones of the Frankfurt comeback, netting the side's first

Minutes later, a handball from Tel Aviv captain Sheran Yeini meant that Frankfurt found themselves with a penalty. Meier slotted the ball to the left as Juan Pablo opted to go the other way - to put Frankfurt just one goal behind.

In the 71st minute a cross by Schröck flashed past goal and looked likely to find its way into the net. Although Frankfurt were unable to capitalize, Tel Aviv were looking wobbly.

Schröck in particular was a thorn in the side for the Israelis, his crosses almost connecting with midfielder Takashi Inui and Czech substitute forward Vaclav Kadlec.

In the end though, all hopes of a comeback were extinguished as Tel Aviv were granted a penalty from an Anderson handball. Zahavi made sure with a cheeky lift, as Trapp was left on the ground when the final whistle blew.

"We were all at sea in the first half," said coach Armin Veh. "In the second half, we showed a different side to ourselves and fought back."

Frankfurt still sit atop Group F on nine points, two above Tel Aviv.

Wet seaside outing

Freiburg had their backs against the wall late in game, where they were still looking for a win in the group stage away to Portugal's Estoril.

Like the two sides' previous meeting, this was far from a classic, with more than its fair share of 50-50 balls as passes went constantly awry. Although it was Freiburg that pushed up the pitch more at first, Estoril were able to mop it up.

The atmosphere was not helped greatly by the rain - tricky potential runs substituted for desperate passes from back to front. Not did the eerily empty stadium do much to aid the spectacle.

A rare moment of excitement came in the 21st minute as Czech record signing Vladimir Darida was in a good free kick position. In the end, it fizzled low, looking like little more than a backpass.

Estoril's Mano, left, clears the ball in front of Freiburg's Karim Guede, from Slovakia, during their Europa League group H soccer match (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Estoril did have to do plenty of defending in the initial stage, before the tables turned

There were also chances for Estoril, with Luis Leal - who looked the Portuguese side’s best player overall on the night - firing from range, but wide.

Estoril pound the goal

The second half started more brightly, especially for Estoril, as Leal again came close with a header of his own. The player almost helped Seba onto the team sheet with a dangerous cross, but the Brazilian headed wide.

More chances came for the Portuguese, Carlitos' blocked free kick presenting a follow-up opportunity for Ruben Fernandes, only for Freiburg keeper Oliver Baumman to save.

Another chance presented itself for Leal, as Brazilian Evandro cut the ball back for him, but the Portuguese merely skied it. All-in-all symptomatic of a match in which Baumann was easily Freiburg’s outstanding player - saving a further Seba effort and crowding out Bruno Lopes from scoring what should have been a sitter on the follow-up.

Without Baumann, Freiburg could never have hoped to wind up with the 0-0 away draw that they did.

"We couldn’t have complained, if Estoril had won," said Baumann after the match. "It was incredibly stressful."

There was ignominy, meanwhile, for Nicolas Höfler and Karim Guede, both were sent off in the last few minutes after being given two yellow cards.

Freiburg are in third place in Group H, with just two games to go and second place Liberec three points ahead.