Eintracht Frankfurt have come back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Portuguese giants FC Porto in the Europa League. The hard-fought result continues the German side's impressive European campaign.
Thursday night's match at the Estadio do Dragao was a chance for Armin Veh's side to forget about their current troubles in the Bundesliga and focus on the competition where they've looked a class apart this season – the Europa League.
After a heavy Bundesliga defeat to Bayern Munich that was followed later this month by successive German Cup and league defeats to Borussia Dortmund, Frankfurt were due a win. Unfortunately for them, the next match on the schedule was against one of the giant's of Portuguese football, FC Porto.
But as they have done all season in Europe, Frankfurt put their league troubles behind them and performed well against a foreign opponent.
It was Porto who came out of the gate on the offensive. Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp was forced into service early as Jackson Martinez caused the visitors particular trouble in the box.
In the 17th minute the Colombian forward received the ball in the box, turned and fired. Trapp managed to save the shot, but it was indicative of Porto's mindset in the first half – attack, attack, attack.
Frankfurt's most-dangerous attempt of the half came in the 26th minute. Sebastian Rode picked up Johannes Flum's pass and charged into the right side of the area. His low shot was on target, but Helton's diving save kept Frankfurt off the scoreboard.
Trapp nearly carried his side's clean sheet into halftime until Ricardo Quaresma's terrific effort a minute before the break. The mercurial journeyman is back at the club where he played the best football of his career, and he showed Frankfurt why his moments of brilliance once ranked him among the most promising talents in world football.
After intercepting Sebastian Jung's poor pass on the left wing, Quaresma cut in and curled a shot from outside the box. Trapp could only stand and watch as the ball soared over his head and bounced in off the far post.
Although the stat line may have suggested Porto deserved the lead after the first 45 minutes – Frankfurt conceded 12 shots while creating just three – Trapp was unlucky to have been beaten by such an unstoppable shot.
While Frankfurt would've been happy to return to Germany trailing 1-0 in the tie, Porto weren't finished.
In the 67th minute Quaresma helped set up a goal with a long free kick into the box. Silvestre Varela headed the ball down to Maicon and raced to the far post, where the Portuguese international was there to finish off the play and make it 2-0.
But not five minutes later, Frankfurt scored a crucial away goal. Alexander Meier laid off Jung's ball into the box, and Joselu volleyed a low, powerful shot past Helton to pull one back for the visitors.
In the 76th minute the visitors continued their comeback. Marco Russ fired off a close-range shot off a corner kick straight at Helton and, while the Brazilian keeper managed to save, Porto defender Alex Sandro redirected the ball into his own net while attempting a clearance.
The second goal took the pressure of Frankfurt, and the little wind remaining out of Porto's sails. Substitute Nabil Ghilas' glaring miss minutes before the final whistle was the closest the hosts came to retaking the lead for the rest of the match. The Algerian substitute met a cross at the far post, but put his shot in an empty net wide.
The miss highlighted the second half for Porto, who looked certain to run away with the match until Frankfurt mounted their impressive comeback.
Veh's side can be pleased that with two away goals they have set themselves up well for the return fixture on February 27. The performance was no doubt helped by the 6,000 Frankfurt fans who made the trip to Portugal.
"It felt like a home game with the atmosphere," Trapp told Ran television after the match.
Porto, meanwhile, will be reeling their missed chances and no doubt fearing an upcoming match in Frankfurt at a sold out Commerzbank-Arena.
"We have a really good opportunity to advance next Thursday in a sold out stadium," said Jung.
Thursday's full Europa League results:
Anzhi Makhachkala 0-0 Racing Genk
Chornomorets 0-0 Lyon
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Dynamo Kyiv 0-2 Valencia
Liberec0-1 AZ Alkmaar
PAOK Salonika 0-1 Benfica
Ajax0-3 SV Salzburg
Lazio 0-1 Ludogorets Razgrad
Maccabi Tel-Aviv 0-0 FC Basel
NK Maribor 2-2 Sevilla
Real Betis 1-1 Rubin Kazan
SwanseaCity 0-0 Napoli
Viktoria Plzen 1-1 Shakhtar Donetsk