UEFA's Technical Observer panel analyse Frankfurt's stunning 3-2 second leg win against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
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Eintracht Frankfurt are looking forward to a second UEFA Europa League semi-final in four seasons thanks to their magnificent 3-2 quarter-final second-leg victory at Barcelona.
In this article presented by Swissquote, the UEFA technical observers' panel assesses the swift transitions and switches of play that helped opened up Barcelona en route to the German side's fourth away success in this season's competition.
0-1: Filip Kostić (pen, 4)
After Jesper Lindstrøm had gone down under Eric García's challenge, as the pair contested a high ball, Kostić took the responsibility of the spot kick and drilled the ball low to Marc-André ter Stegen's left, as the goalkeeper went the other way.
0-2: Rafael Borré (36)
Eintracht's pressing was the source, with a swarm of five white shirts around three Barcelona men on the left side of the pitch centrally. Eventually Kristijan Jakić dispossessed Sergio Busquets and Kostić passed the loose ball forward to Borré who from 25m unleashed an outstanding shot that flew in off the underside of the crossbar.
0-3: Filip Kostić (67)
From an Eintracht throw-in on the right, Borré won a flick-on and Daichi Kamada fed Kostić, entering the box on the left to arrow a fierce low shot across Ter Stegen and inside the far post.
1-3: Sergio Busquets (90+1)
Busquets is not a regular scorer – this was his first goal of the season and only his fifth in UEFA's club competitions (from group stage to final). After Martin Hinteregger had blocked a Luuk de Jong shot, though, he pounced on the rebound, cracking a first-time effort from the edge of the box, sending the ball on an emphatic flight into the far corner.
2-3: Memphis Depay (pen, 90+11)
After Evan N'Dicka's illegal aerial challenge on Luuk de Jong, substitute Memphis Depay took the penalty down the middle where Kevin Trapp got a hand to the ball but only to send it up on to the crossbar and back down behind his goal-line. It was the very last action.
The home side played with their customary 1-4-3-3 with a back four featuring a forward-looking Jordi Alba (No18) on the left and a more cautious Óscar Mingüeza (No22) on the right. In front, Sergio Busquets (No5) was in his classic No6 role, reading the game cleverly and conducting regular switches of play, while the two more attack-minded central midfielders – Gavi (No30) and Pedri (No16) – moved between the lines.
Up front, Barcelona began with two wingers in Ferrán Torres (No19) and Ousmane Dembélé (No7) supporting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (No25). Coach Xavi shuffled his pack in the 61st minute when Sergiño Dest replaced Mingüeza and Adama Traoré took the place of Aubameyang, meaning Torres moved into the central attacking role. Then, in the 70th minute, De Jong came on as centre-forward and he was joined up front later by central defender Ronald Araújo as Barcelona ended the night in a 1-3-3-4 shape, with Busquets taking over in central defence in a frantic finish.
Set up in a 1-3-4-2-1 formation, Eintracht had a goalkeeper, Trapp (No1), who was confident on the ball, and three strong central defenders, led by Hinteregger (No13) in the middle. With two defensive midfielders, they had a solid five-man block centrally along with two fast wingers in Ansgar Knauff (No36) and Kostić (No10). Higher up the pitch, centre-forward Borré (No19) received support from Jesper Lindström (No29) and Kamada (No15).
Without the ball, Lindström and Kamada dropped back either side of the midfield two as Eintracht formed a compact defensive 1-5-4-1 block, defending aggressively to win the ball and create chances to counter.
Eintracht base their success on counterattacking at top speed, with quick balls to the front. They have strong, fast players and their transitional play is excellent. Those qualities came to the fore once more at Camp Nou, along with their highly effective switches of play to their talented No10 Kostić.
The video above begins with an example of their ploy of hitting balls long and then winning the second ball. The first sequence shows Hinteregger play a ball up the right side into Barcelona territory with white shirts competing fiercely to regain it before a switch to Kostić on the left, who gets in a shot. The second and third clips in the video, similarly, show Eintracht work the ball across to their Serbian playmaker whose crosses lead to opportunities for first Jakić and then Lindström.
It is interesting to note that Eintracht had less possession (25.6%) and fewer touches (413) than any other team in UEFA Europa League action last Thursday night. Yet they managed 15 shots to Barcelona's ten with a 7-4 count for shots on goal. (As an aside, West Ham, their semi-final opponents, had the second-lowest numbers for possession and touches).
In the first half, in particular, Barcelona's errors in possession led to a series of Frankfurt counterattacks, including in the lead-up to their second goal. In the second period too Oliver Glasner's men kept countering and could have had more goals. As noted by the UEFA technical observer, when they lost the ball they work tirelessly to win it back, their movement as a team allowing them numerical superiority in defensive situations, such as in the wide areas.
According to the UEFA observer, several individuals stood out, starting with Kostić who featured in many of Eintracht's dangerous attacks. His speed is a great asset and he also worked hard defensively for the team and ranked joint-second for recoveries (12) in last week's quarter-final second legs (along with West Ham's Pablo Fornals).
Hinteregger was singled out too and not just for his strong personality and leadership at the back; his one-on-one defending, power in the air and intelligence in the visitors' build-up play were equally impressive. Indeed his total of ten clearances was unsurpassed in last week's second legs (matched only by Leipzig's Willi Orbán).
Factor in Eintracht's collective aerial power and it was a difficult evening for Aubameyang, the Barcelona central striker up against the German side's three imposing central defenders. Eintracht's deep block offered little room for him to run into behind and, instead, a greater attacking threat came from Dembélé who caught the eye with his dribbling and intelligent movement which included plenty of runs inside. The Frenchman ended the night with the most open-play crosses and take-ons (13 of each) of any player in last Thursday's matches.
Xavi Hernández, Barcelona coach: "We shouldn't be blaming tiredness, mental or physical – we didn't use the ball well. We missed a couple of chances. The key is to say 'not everything went badly today', but we didn't get enough of the important things right to our standard.
"Eintracht played to their strengths really well; they were tough, physical and very good in their own penalty box. They play on the counterattack and counter-press in a way I've only seen from a few teams in my career. We didn't defend either well and were unable to stop them. Congratulations to Eintracht: they deserve to go through."
Oliver Glasner, Eintrach coach: "Huge credit to the players for what they did here. They did everything perfectly for 85 minutes. We had a game-plan with our intensity, our power. We let them have the ball where we didn't feel they could cause us problems. The players achieved something that hardly ever happens anywhere in the world."