Matthew Marshall, Waldstadion – Eintracht Frankfurt are one step away from Europa League glory after securing a 1-0 win against West Ham in the semi-final second leg at the Waldstadion.
Defending a 2-1 lead gained in London, the turning point came in the 19th minute when Aaron Cresswell was sent off for denying Jens Petter Hauge a goalscoring opportunity.
Seven minutes later the tie was effectively ended when Rafael Borré fired home from close range.
David Moyes had limited options off the bench, the Scottish manager unable to turn the tide and rightfully sent off in an ugly incident that highlighted his frustration.
It was mayhem after the final whistle, thousands of supporters storming the pitch and many more thousands staying to share the joy. Most of them wouldn’t have been alive in 1980, the last time the Eagles contested a European Cup final.
The countdown is on until 18 May when Eintracht take on Rangers at Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Sevilla.
Eintracht suffered an early setback with Martin Hinteregger injured and replaced by Almamy Touré. The switch saw Tuta move into the middle of the back three.
The key moment in the match came in the 19th minute when West Ham were reduced to 10 men.
Daichi Kamada’s long ball created problems for Aaron Cresswell who got into a tangle with Jens Petter Hauge. Referee Jesús Gil initially awarded a yellow card, upgrading it to a straight red after viewing replays on the touchline monitor.
Ben Johnson came off the bench with Manuel Lanzini sacrificed. It was bad news for the Premier League club, needing to overcome a first leg deficit with 10 men, and in the 26th minute the deficit was doubled.
Ansgar Knauff collected Touré’s pass and drove to the byline, his cross picking out an unmarked Rafael Borré who converted from close range.
Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen became increasingly isolated as Touré, Tuta and Evan Ndicka dealt with everything that came their way.
West Ham went close on the stroke of half time, Ndicka clearing Kurt Zouma’s effort off the line. Craig Dawson headed Antonio’s cross straight at Kevin Trapp in the 60th minute, David Moyes making his first change in the 74th minute when Pablo Fornals made way for Saïd Benrahma.
Moyes was then involved in an ugly incident, justifiably sent off after kicking the ball in anger and narrowly missing a ball boy’s head. His players battling hard, late chances falling to Antonio and Soucek.
It was a night to forget for the English club and a night Eintracht will remember for eternity.
Second time lucky
Adi Hütter guided the Eagles to the Europa League semi-finals in 2018/19. It was a side fondly remembered for the electricity generated by Filip Kostic, Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sébastien Haller
They won all six group games before getting past Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter Milan and Benfica to set up a clash with Chelsea. Two 1-1 draws took it to a penalty shootout at Stamford Bridge where they were eliminated after taking a 3-2 lead.
Eintracht fell to Basel in the last 16 the following season and failed to qualify in Hütter’s final campaign at the club.
Oliver Glasner has done a tremendous job in Europe where Eintracht Frankfurt have failed to taste defeat in 12 matches. Real Betis, Barcelona and West Ham were significant challenges overcome in the knockout rounds, the 3-2 win at Camp Nou one of the high points in a fantastic campaign.
Glasner gets it done in Europe
Oliver Glasner took a solid Wolfsburg squad to fourth spot last season. Some might have questioned his decision to leave a Champions League club and join Frankfurt.
It’s looking a sound decision thus far despite domestic disappointments this season, starting with a 1st Round DFB-Pokal defeat to 3. Liga club Waldhof Mannheim. Eintracht could finish as low as 13th in the Bundesliga as they prioritise the Europa League final.
The Eagles have excuses after going through a period of transition last summer. Many new players arrived alongside Glasner and Markus Krösche replacing Fredi Bobic as Sporting Director.
Krösche summed up the season well after the victory against West Ham: “When we started a year ago and lost our first competitive game in Mannheim, we certainly didn’t think we would be in the Europa League final today.”
Sevilla is all that matters now, and with victory against Rangers securing a spot in the Champions League, the stakes are high in more ways than one.
One more away trip
Frankfurt’s fans are making a name for themselves on the European stage with huge numbers turning up to away games. The size of Frankfurt airport, number of surrounding airports and level of support means they always find a way.
The scenes in Barcelona, where home fans were vastly outnumbered as thousands of Eintracht supporters schemed their way into the stadium, was a sight to behold.
There was another spectacle after full time as supporters made their way onto the pitch to celebrate with the players.
The last time Eintracht played for a European trophy was in May 1980, a two-legged UEFA Cup final when they defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach.
With no idea when or where the next away trip in Europe might be, the demand for tickets in Sevilla is going to unimaginable for a club that just reached 100,000 club members.