Frankfurt′s front line fires fierce warning to European rivals | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 21.02.2019
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Frankfurt's front line fires fierce warning to European rivals

Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic all scored to help Eintracht Frankfurt reach the Europa League last 16. In this form, there may not be a team in Europe that would want to face Adi Hütter's side.

The performance of Eintracht Frankfurt's front line in Thursday's 4-1 win over Shakhtar Donetzk in the Europa League could not be more different than its showing in the first leg of the tie.

In Ukraine, one of the Europe's most effective attacks scored just twice despite taking 21 shots at goal. Their wastefulness allowed a 10-man Shakhtar side to rescue a draw. 

This second leg victory fired a clear warning to the competition: underestimate us at your peril.

Hütter rejigged his attack following the first leg, dropping Ante Rebic to the bench and restoring Sebastien Haller to the lineup. The Frenchman produced a vintage center forward display on a clear, chilly evening in the Commerzbank Arena, scoring twice and leading the line with ruthless authority. 

Jovic strikes first

It was Luka Jovic who opened the scoring, however. The young Serb has been Frankfurt's most reliable source of goals this season, hitting 14 domestically to top the Bundesliga scoring charts. He's carried his scintillating displays into Europe, too, and it was no surprise to see him lurking on the edge of the area to put his side ahead.

Still just 21 years of age, Jovic's name is being mentioned in connection with some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Barcelona and Bayern Munich. It's not hard to see why. 

His movement for the goal was that of a far more experienced striker, dragging his marker towards the near post before drifting back into the space left behind. 

Haller unplayable

Haller has provided the perfect foil to Jovic all season, using his work rate and intelligence to opening up pockets of space for his strike partner to exploit. He's weighed in with his fair share of goals too: 16 in 31 appearances across all competitions, five of which have come in Europe. He has now had a direct hand in more goals, eight, than any other player in the competition.

Additionally, Haller's confidence from the penalty spot could prove vital as the competition enters the latter stages. The 24-year old's scored all three of the penalties he's taken this season and there were no doubts at all as he stepped up to double his side's lead against Shakthar. A man for the big occasion, his career record from 12 yards is remarkable: 23 taken, 22 scored.

On nights like this, Haller in particular can be unplayable. Amid the hustle and bustle, the aerial duels and hard pressing, there's an elegance to his game; a striker with no doubt about his importance to his side. He's frequently the man Frankfurt players turn to when the pressure mounts, using his physicality and intelligence to hold up play, win back possession and bring his teammates into the game.

Rebic joins the fun

The third member of Frankfurt's much-lauded front line arrived late to the party but wasted no time in joining in the fun. Ante Rebic's eighth goal of the season killed the game, and laid to rest the disappointment of those first leg frustrations.

Rebic, the hero in last season's German Cup final victory over Bayern Munich, is enjoying another stellar season for the club and will be relishing the opportunity to show what he can do in the latter stages.

Frankfurt are now the competitions leading scorers with 23 goals, and there's no doubting it's all down to the excellence of their attacking trio.

Haller, Jovic and Rebic have 44 goals between them in all competitions this campaign and will no doubt fancy their chances of adding to that, regardless of their opposition, in the next round. They'll find out who that will be on Friday, but it's safe to assume there'll be a few sleepless nights in store for the defenders they're drawn to face.

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