Europa League: Eintracht Frankfurt hold on for draw against Chelsea | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 02.05.2019
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Europa League: Eintracht Frankfurt hold on for draw against Chelsea

Against all the odds, the Bundesliga team have made the Europa League semifinals. Their draw against Chelsea in the first leg was entertaining, and in the end fortunate, but it leaves the tie open.

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Chelsea
(Jovic 23' - Pedro 45')

In Frankfurt's first ever competitive meeting with Chelsea, the Bundesliga side made sure their impressive opening 20 minutes didn't go to waste as they held on to deny Chelsea a late victory that wouldn't have been undeserved.

Spurred on by yet another special atmosphere from the Frankfurt fans celebrating the club's last home European game of the season, Adi Hütter's side burst out of the blocks. Frankfurt's high pressing unsettled Chelsea and eventually the Eagles made it count. Filip Kostic drilled a low cross into the box, and Luka Jovic masterfully guided a header into the far corner.

Chelsea took a little bit to react, but slowly began to wrestle back control. Ruben Loftus-Cheek grew into the game as Chelsea won corner after corner. With the seventh of the half, they struck. Loftus-Cheek somehow managed to work space in the box to find Pedro, who did equally well to fashion a yard or two of space that allowed him to fire a shot through the crowd past Kevin Trapp.

Europa League - Eintracht Frankfurt vs FC Chelsea (Getty Images/D. Roland)

Luka Jovic's opener sparked joyous scenes in Frankfurt

The goal spurred Chelsea into action and the Premier League side dominated the second half, with Trapp making a handful of tidy saves to keep Frankfurt in it. Loftus-Cheek blazed over and David Luiz hit the bar with a free kick as Frankfurt suddenly started to hang on.

Hütter's decision to bring on Goncalo Paciencia changed things a bit for the home side, and David Abraham nearly won it late on but sent his free header over the bar.

In the end, thanks to Trapp and some determined defending, Frankfurt held on for a draw that leaves the tie perfectly in the balance. While Chelsea's away goal leaves them in the driving seat, the Bundesliga will argue Chelsea have always been favoriutes. Next week in London, Frankfurt will dare to defy the odds one last time and secure a spot in the Europa League final. The 1-1 draw in Frankfurt means they have given themselves a real chance of doing just that.

Europa League - Eintracht Frankfurt vs FC Chelsea (Reuters/R. Orlowski)

Pedro celebrates scoring Chelsea's away goal just seconds before the interval

As it happened:

22:56 "I've got a few bumps and bruises," Rode admits to RTL afterwards. A fairly heroic performance from him tonight, but every member of that Frankfurt team deserves credit for battling all the way until the end. That draw keeps them in the tie.

FULL TIME! Frankfurt have done it! In the end, they held on for this draw but for the first 20 minutes it looked like they might run away with it. At the end, Frankfurt's fans wave their flags all around the stadium as they enjoy their last European home game of the season. Even if it ends next week in London, what a performance from their fans all season long.

90+5' All but there now Frankfurt... Trapp to take this goal kick and then...

90+2' Trapp wastes a bit more time. Frankfurt are three minutes away from finishing this Europa League season at home without losing. Worth thinking about.

90' Gacinovic has cramp. Frankfurt are so close now to escaping with a draw that flatters them, looking at most of the game. Five minutes of added time...

85' David Abraham! A huge chance for the center back as he meets to rises a corner, but even though he's unmarked he heads over. Wow. A free header from a man who normally does better with those chances. Got to get those on target at least... Then Chelsea play it short from the goal kick, Frankfurt nick in and it takes another block to deny the home side. Suddenly, Hütter's men look dangerous again!

83' Loftus-Cheek makes way, which is a bit of a surprise, with Mateo Kovacic coming on. A defensive change, if ever there was one.

81' Paciencia drills in a low ball, but Frankfurt can't quite work enough space for a shot. Then Da Costa beats Luiz to put an inviting pass at the back post for Paciencia, but it's just beyond him. So close (even if the offside flag was wrongly raised)!

77' Chelsea should be ahead. Hazard sends a great free kick, and Luiz is there to meet it, but the glanced header is well saved by Kevin Trapp, who proves his worth again. Frankfurt go down the other end and win a corner. That has woken the fans up, but a short corner routine helps no one. Huge shouts go up for a handball, but it looks to have clipped Giroud's chest. Close, but not a handball, however much the home crowd wanted it.

74' Trapp saves from Loftus-Cheek, who unleashes a bouncing volley at goal. Then Hinteregger blocks Hazard. All a bit desperate from Frankfurt...

73' Ask and you shall receive. Fernandes, who looks absolutely knackered, comes off for Goncalo Paciencia. An attacking change from Hütter, and kudos to him too. The Austrian recognises that his team need to get back to attacking and can't just see the game out at the back. Frankfurt do look tired though.

71' Frankfurt could do with a bit of the ball. At the moment, their just holding on and with 20 minutes to go that looks a somewhat dangerous tactic. Mind you, given how hard they've worked up until the point it's perhaps not surprising. Loftus-Cheek is growing into the game. Time for a change, Hütter?

64' Oh Luka Jovic! The striker comes a little deeper to control the ball as Frankfurt break for their first real attack of the half (their last shot on goal was their goal) but for some reason the Serbian doesn't play in Fernandes, who has galloped into space in the middle and looked free on goal had the ball arrived. Frankfurt need to get through this period here if the tie is to be intact next week. Hinteregger muscles out Giroud in the box, but only just. Key period of the game.

60' David Luiz hits the bar! The Brazilian takes a free kick from a central spot, and it dips at the last moment. Trapp is there, but that was too close for comfort. Suddenly, even as the home crowd stays loud, Chelsea look very comfortable. Good time for Eden Hazard then - he comes on for Willian.

58' Loftus-Cheek goes on a run from midfield, makes Hinteregger come out for a tackle and miss, but then the Englishman blazes his effort over. Trapp is tested again shortly after. Hasebe gets booked. Chelsea are turning up the heat a bit here.

50' Rode and Jorginho clash heads after a challenge for a header goes wrong. Both players get treatment but seem fine to continue, and after a quick pat on the back, the pair do continue. Nothing like Jan Vertonghen the other night, but still not what you want to see.

46' Frankfurt get us restarted. All to play for!

HALFTIME Frankfurt came out of the blocks and seemed to stun the visitors, who in turn looked a bit shocked at how loud and proud the Waldstadion is. Eventually though, the Premier League side upped the ante and nabbed that precious away goal just before the break. It's perfectly set for the second half, but how do you play it now Adi Hütter?

45' GOAL! 1-1 Chelsea (Pedro) This time it pays off for the visitors. Christensen heads it back in to Loftus-Cheek, who dances around a pair of closing black shirts. His neat pass somehow finds Pedro in the box, and the Spaniard equally somehow manages to work a yard to fire through the crowd past Kevin Trapp. Deserved, after the last 10 minutes, but tough on Frankfurt who had nearly weathered the storm.

44' Frankfurt have conceded seven corners in this half. That's an awful lot, considering how many goals do tend to fall from set-pieces. Seventh one incoming now...

41' Willian looks the man to cause the most problems for Frankfurt, but his brilliant ball is misused by Giroud. Down the other end, Gacinovic gets tugged back and stops but doesn't get the foul. If he had kept running, he'd have been clear... Not enough in that to be honest, although I needed a replay to be sure. Then Loftus-Cheek curls one just wide from the edge of the box! Very close to that coveted away goal!

37' ... which resutls in another corner, which is cleared by Chelsea who go up the other end and win a set-piece of their own. Giroud gets called for pulling Hinteregger to the floor and responds with a few words of, let's say, frustration.

35' Chelsea come into the game a bit more now, but can't really make anything of it. Will we see Eden Hazard come on for the second half? The Premier League side look like they need him. Frankfurt get another free kick to put into the box after a clumsy tackle from Jorginho. Rode floats it in, and it's just beyond Falette. Corner though...

32' Frankfurt's central midfield are doing a superb job of preventing Chelsea from playing it out of the back because they are effectively removing Kante and Jorginho as options. Hugely impressive, given the opposition and the occasion.

27' Chelsea try to react. Pedro sends a bouncing effort just passed the post. A warning shot, if ever there was one. The entire stadium, apart from the away fans, has just finished bouncing. Are some of these Chelsea players too busy being impressed? Looks like it at the moment.

23' GOAL! 1-0 Frankfurt (Jovic) It has happened. Frankfurt win the ball in their own half, drive forward and get the ball out to Kostic on the left. His low cross is met by Luka Jovic, who sends a perfectly angled header into the far corner. Masterful. The Waldstadion erupts. Frankfurt have the lead.

20' Chelsea look a little rattled. Christensen is late on Rode, and gets booked. The Dane has his hands up. He knows it. Rode is a little bruised, but he'll carry on. This is a semifinal after all. No chance he wants out of this one, and most importantly, he is ok to continue. Kostic swings in the free kick from the left, and it finds its way to Abraham at the back post - but the defender's curling effort goes over. A chance.

17' Frankfurt pressing high up the pitch. Da Costa works hard to win the ball back, and although Frankfurt loses it again they win it back. Lots of that so far. Intensity is high, but at this rate I fear for Frankfurt in the final 20 minutes. Right now though, they are flying. Kostic into the box, flicked clear but put back in. Jovic flicks it to Da Costa out wide but his low, driven cross is saved by Kepa. Very positive start from the Bundesliga side.

12' Just a reminder of how this stadium looked before kick off. It's worth another look.

10' Frankfurt get an early chance to probe the Chelsea box, but Jovic and Gacinovic dally and don't pull the trigger. Chelsea clear. Thereafter it turns into a bit of a midfield scrap. Frankfurt are very much in this one though, even if Chelsea's quality is clear to see.

4' Frankfurt are going to have to be very tidy covering their left-hand side tonight. David Luiz pings a diagonal ball across to Pedro and, not for the first time in the game, he drives at Falette. The Frenchman was superb against Benfica, and will have to be again tonight if Frankfurt are to grab a surprise result.

1' Off we go! The Frankfurt fans are still loud, singing "European Cup, European Cup is back again!"

20:57 You want a choreo? I am speechless. Every round Frankfurt's fans do something incredible, and this is no different. Wow.

20:42 Adi Hütter said before the game to RTL that he wants his players "to just enjoy the moment." There was also a compliment from Jürgen Klopp for Hütter before the game, which Hütter said he was very flattered to receive from such a brilliant head coach. Everything is set for Frankfurt, but can they actually do it? It's nearly time to find out...

20:32 How excited are Frankfurt's fans about tonight? They are taking seats out of the stands so they can stand.

20:20 Fredi Bobic tells RTL before the game that not everything has to be decided tonight. There are two legs, and tonight is just the first one. Bobic did say though, that Frankfurt want to win the game. Underdog? Who said that?

20:15 Meanwhile in London, Mesut Özil starts for Arsenal in their semifinal against Valencia. Former Bundesliga players Sokratis, Granit Xhaka, Sead Kolasniac and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are also in the starting line-up. As does Shkodran Mustafi, member of Germany's 2014 World Cup winning team.

19:38 TEAMS! Frankfurt deal the best they can without Ante Rebic (suspended) and Sebastien Haller (injured). Martin Hinteregger being in the team is a big boost though. As for Chelsea, their defense is fairly makeshift but it's that attack that looks very good. Eden Hazard is on a Chelsea bench that looks very dangerous, while Frankfurt don't have much to turn to beyond the starting XI. Just over an hour to go. Excited yet? We are.

Frankfurt XI: Trapp - Da Costa, Falette, Hasebe, Abraham, Hinteregger - Rode, Fernandes - Kostic, Jovic, Gacinovic

Chelsea XI: Kepa - Emerson, David Luiz, Christensen, Azpilicueta - Jorginho, Kante, Loftus-Cheek - Willian, Giroud, Pedro

19:19 Hard to believe it given the number of games in football these days, but this will be the first ever competitive meeting between Frankfurt and Chelsea. They've met in two preseason friendlies before, most recently in 2010, but tonight is the first time when it has really mattered. Quite a night for it to be the first...

18:59 Frankfurt's sporting director Fredi Bobic is quoted as saying in the prematch program as saying the following: "To everyone hoping to secure Champions League football next season, I would say this: We are already playing Champions League... This is the highest level of European football."

Bobic isn't wrong. Have a look at the teams Frankfurt have beaten to get to this stage. There are quite a lot of big names:

Group stage:

Marseille (a) 2-1 win
Lazio (h) 4-1 win
Apollon (h) 2-0 win
Apollon (a) 3-2 win
Marseille (h) 4-0 win
Lazio (a) 2-1 win

Round of 32:

Shakhtar (a) 2-2 draw
Shakhtar (h) 4-1 win

Round of 16:

Inter Milan (h) 0-0 draw
Inter Milan (a) 1-0 win


Benfica (a) 4-2 loss
Benfica (h) 2-0 win

18:34 The calm before the storm. Frankfurt's stadium looks empty now, but I think it'll look a little different later on tonight.

18:20 Matt Ford is in Frankfurt for us tonight. Be sure to follow him for the latest updates from the city, the fans and of course, the game itself.

18:10 If you're still undecided on Frankfurt, we're here to help. Check out this thread on Twitter as to the numerous reasons to cheer for the Bundesliga side tonight.

18:06 What is so special about this Frankfurt team? It's a team not of superstars, but of shooting stars. It's a unique group, and the connection between the fans and the club is pretty special. This week, head coach Adi Hütter admitted as much - see the tweet below.

18:03 Good evening! It's hard to believe that tonight, Eintracht Frankfurt are playing the first leg of a European semifinal. This team, who lost Niko Kovac after winning the German Cup and appeared set for a tough season, has upset the odds to face Chelsea for a spot in the Europa League final. In the Bundesliga, they still have every chance of finishing in the top four. What a season it has been, and just how great a season will be decided in the weeks ahead. The final chapter of the adventure starts tonight.