Freiburg have become the second Bundesliga side eliminated from European competition, losing out on the last night of Europa League group phase action. Frankfurt, already through to the last 32, won again at home.
Foggy weather almost prevented Thursday's late game in Freiburg, but the skies cleared in time for kick off. Freiburg went into the match knowing that the simplest mathematical way - if not the only one - to guarantee qualification was by beating Spanish guests FC Sevilla. On the pitch, however, this prospect promised to be anything but easy.
In a match where Freiburg made much of the running, favorites Sevilla won 2-0, putting the result beyond any doubt in a lengthy period of stoppage time. Coupled with a win for Slovan Liberec against Estoril, the result booted the Bundesliga side out of the competition.
"We learned a lot from many of the games - for our development, and just by being there," coach Christian Streich said on Sky Germany after the defeat, naming a string of youngsters who took to the pitch on Thursday as examples. "We have learned a lot, and perhaps been taught a few lessons, too, but that's to be expected."
Lessons closer to home
Like the other Bundesliga team in action on Thursday, Frankfurt, Freiburg's European campaign has also taken a domestic toll. Freiburg sit 16th in the table, fighting for 15th with Frankfurt - quite a change from the pair's top-6 finishes last season.
Sevilla's opening goal fell late in the first half after Diego Perotti went on a snaky dribble down the left flank, crossing low for Vicente Iborra to finish from point-blank.
Freiburg found the net once themselves in the second half chasing a comeback, but the goal was disallowed when midfieler Nicolas Höfler, playing hours after penning a contract extension, used his hand to direct the ball goalwards.
In an extended seven-minute period of stoppage time, prompted among other things by an injury to one of the match officials, the hosts both poured forward and showed signs of fatigue. As a result, ever concession of possession seemed to mark the next Sevilla breakaway. Freiburg captain Oliver Baumann kept several such chances at bay, before conceding a second of the night to substitute striker Raul Rusescu.
Same story at home, poles apart in Europe
Also struggling in the Bundesliga, Frankfurt have sailed through their Europa League group. Amin Veh's team beat APOEL Nicosia 2-0 in their last group stage game on Thursday, playing safe in the knowledge they had qualified, thanks to a pair of fringe players.
Eintracht Frankfurt racked up 15 points in their six Europa League group games, waltzing into the round of 32. With just 11 Bundesliga points after 15 matches, Veh might like to swap some continental success for some domestic security just now.
Veh sent out a lagely second-choice side on Thursday, probably with an eye on Sunday's league visit to second-placed Bayer Leverkusen. His chosen 11 still dominated the Cypriot visitors, ultimately winning 2-0.
Both goals fell in the second half, scored by the two most likely candidates for man of the match. Left-back Constant Djakpa crossed from the left after 68 minutes, finding the diminutive Stefan Schröck at the far post. The right-winger, lively on the night although not a Frankfurt regular, looked a little surprised to have netted with his head, repeatedly pointing to it during his celebration.
Schröck later won Frankfurt a dangerous freekick on the edge of the box, and for the second time in the Europa League campaign, Djakpka found the net from a dead ball. The direct left-footed curler was more conventional, but similarly impressive, to his goal earlier in the competition against Bordeaux.
Of the seven German teams that qualified for European competition, five have survived past the winter break. Stuttgart failed to clear the Europa League qualifying rounds at the start of the season, now Freiburg join them.