Europa League: Eintracht Frankfurt take a step closer to the group stage | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 08.08.2019
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Europa League: Eintracht Frankfurt take a step closer to the group stage

Eintracht Frankfurt did what they set out to do in Vaduz, moving a step closer to the Europa League group stage. There are reasons to think that Frankfurt are also moving in the right direction in the longer term.

Part of any coach's job when approaching a match when his team is the clear favorite is to make sure that his players don't fall into the trap of underestimating their opponents. Sometimes their warnings may ring hollow, but Eintracht Franfkurt head coach Adi Hütter's words will have had a little extra credence.

Asked at the prematch press conference about his experiences in Liechtenstein while he was coach of Swiss Super League outfit Young Boys Bern and FC Vaduz were still playing in Switzerland's top flight, Hütter's expression turned a tad grave.

"In terms of results, pretty negative," the Austrian said. "We drew three times here and even lost once."

However, FC Vaduz now play in Switzerland's second tier and the Bundesliga is a step up from the Super Liga. So perhaps it was no surprise that Hütter remained confident despite facing what, until this Thursday may have been described as his personal Angstgegner (bogey team).

Not only would Frankfurt not take this opponent lightly, Hütter said, but he was also confident that his team had the experience to approach the first leg of the third round of Europa League qualifying in the right frame of mind.

His confidence was more than justified as the outcome of this one was never in doubt.

Dominating performance

The first chance came in the very first minute, but returning son Martin Hinteregger's header off a corner missed the target. Ten minutes later Filip Kostic drew first blood, hitting a ball from 30 meters out that fluttered and flustered the Vaduz keeper. Then in the 27th minute, the Serbian struck again to give the Eagles a cushion, receiving the ball to a few meters outside of the area before charging in and beating Benjamin Büchel on the short side. Dominik Kohr made it 3-0 shortly before the break, Goncalo Pacienia and Mijat Gacinovic added a pair in the second frame to put the tie out of reach – with 90 minutes left to play.

Eintracht Frankfurt - FC Vaduz - Adi Huetter (picture-alliance/G. Ehrenzeller)

Adi Hütter: One less Angstgegner

After the match Hütter told German broadcaster RTL Nitro he was very satisfied with his team's performance, which he saw as much stronger than a few weeks ago in the first leg  of the second round in Talinn.

The longer view

"This is decided," said Frankfurt's visibly satisfied head of sport, Fredi Bobic.

Bobic has good reason to be satisfied with just over a week to go until the Bundesliga starts up again; for since his arrival on the River Main in June 2016 he's been responsible for a lot of changes at a club that until his arrival hadn't won any silverware since winning the German Cup in 1988.

Eintracht Frankfurt have gone from a club that needed the relegation playoff to avoid the drop, to an appearance in the German Cup final in 2017, to upsetting the mighty Bayern Munich to win it a year later. 

This was followed by last year's Europa League adventure, which saw the Eagles make it all the way to the semifinals before falling to Chelsea in a penalty shootout – no wonder Frankfurt  are so motivated to get back into the group stage.

But all along, Bobic has been focused on longer-term success – and now the squad looks to have much more stability than just a couple of years ago – despite the painful losses of Luka Jovic to Real Madrid and Sebastian Haller to West Ham.

Even last season, key players like Sebastian Rode, Martin Hinteregger and Kevin Trapp were only in Frankfurt on loan, now all three are back as Eintracht's property on five-year contracts. Newcomers Kohr, Djibril Sow and Dejan Jovelijic have been also signed on for five years, Erik Durm for four.

And don't forget, it was Bobic who had to find a replacement for the 2018 Cup-winning coach, Niko Kovac. In Hütter, he looks to have very much picked a winner too.

Farther along on their development?

Getting back to the group stage of the Europa League is by no means a sure thing, with Strasbourg looking like their likely opponent after the French side won their first leg 1-0 in Plovdiv. However, while Vaduz are doubtless minnows, the way Frankfurt went about their business on Thursday suggests this team could turn out to be farther along in their development than last season.

Sunday's first round of the German Cup, when they face third-division side Waldhof Mannheim could give a better of indication as to whether this actually is the case - it was a year ago that Eintracht slipped badly a first-round banana peel – going down 5-0 to fourth-tier Ulm. 

At least Adi Hütter has one less Angstgegner to worry about.

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