Europa League match analysis: Frankfurt 1-0 West Ham
Wednesday, 11 May 2022
UEFA's Technical Observer panel analyses how Eintracht Frankfurt remained true to their game plan to sink West Ham in the Europa League semi-final second leg.
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Eintracht Frankfurt are looking forward to their first continental competition final since 1980 following last week's UEFA Europa League semi-final success against West Ham.
In this article presented by Swissquote, the UEFA Technical Observer Panel analyses the German side's wide threat posed by their wing-backs Ansgar Knauff and Filip Kostić – and looks ahead to an intriguing final duel between Kostić and Rangers skipper James Tavernier.
1-0: Rafael Borré (26)
Scorer of the opening goal in the first leg, Knauff now turns provider. He makes a run between left-back Ben Johnson and centre-back Kurt Zouma to meet a pass down the right side and from there he produces an intelligent cut-back towards the penalty spot where Borré applies a low finish, striking the ball first time into the far corner for his third goal of this campaign.
Borré's movement is worth reviewing for the way he checks his run while Craig Dawson, his marker, continues towards the ball – so creating space for himself. This was a feature of the Colombian's play throughout as he made space for his team-mates with good movement off the ball.
Oliver Glasner set his team up in a 1-3-4-2-1 formation in which the fast wide attackers – Knauff (36) on the right and Kostić (10) on the left – play pivotal roles. The pair make the pitch extremely wide with Kostić catching the eye of the UEFA technical observer with his dangerous crosses and intelligent cut-backs, and Knauff impressing with his dribbling ability.
Eintracht's success is a team effort, of course, and in each area of the pitch they had players functioning well within the system, starting with goalkeeper Kevin Trapp (1) who showed confidence in building up the game and good anticipation when it came to reading West Ham's long balls.
In front of him were three football-playing central defenders – albeit skipper Martin Hinteregger (No13) left the field early with a muscle injury and will miss the final – while in midfield, Djibril Sow (No8) and Sebastian Rode (No17) did a screening job. Ahead, Glasner had two players, Daichi Kamada (No15) and Jens Peter Hauge (No23), who play very well between the lines and excel at swift surges from deep, as seen in the first leg with Kamada's fifth goal en route to Seville. Up front was Borré (No19), a central striker adept at falling back and creating space.
To highlight Frankfurt's faith in their system, there was no change to the game plan after Aaron Cresswell's 17th-minute sending-off. On the contrary, Glasner told his players to stick to it and keep focused on their designated tasks.
The Londoners' starting formation was a 1-4-2-3-1. In front of the strong central midfield duo of Declan Rice (No41) and Tomáš Souček (No28) were the more attack-minded trio of Jarrod Bowen (No20), Manuel Lanzini (No10) and Pablo Fornals (No8), who look to work inside and between the lines. After Cresswell's red card, manager David Moyes replaced Lanzini with full-back Johnson (No31) as West Ham switched formation to a 1-4-4-1 which, when they attacked, looked more like a 1-4-2-2-1.
There were plenty of longer balls to Michail Antonio (No9) who was the visitors' most dangerous player on the night with his strength, stamina and hard running for the team. For the visitors it was not easy against opponents who did very well at exploiting their numerical superiority. Prior to the red card, Fornals was dropping back on the left as West Ham's shape morphed to a 1-5-4-1 but without Cresswell that was no longer possible.
The video above focuses on Eintracht's attacking patterns and primarily their use of the full width of the pitch with their two dangerous wingers. The first clip, for example, shows a sequence of short passes before a diagonal ball to Kostić on the left wing is the cue for the Serbian to run at Vladimír Coufal, get to the byline and deliver a cross to the far post. Such switches of play, with diagonal passes to the flanks, were a recurring feature of their approach.
The second clip shows Kostić crossing once more, this time after Kamada's pass between the centre-back and full-back sets up the opportunity for the Serbian to centre. Both wide men feature in the third clip, meanwhile, in which Kostić overhits his cross but Knauff picks up the ball and threatens the West Ham defence with a dribble into the box.
Overall, this is an Eintracht team with strong, fast players and excellent positional play, using short and long balls depending on the situation and opponent. As well as their threat from wide, they also ask questions of defenders with the quick runs from deep by their attacking midfielders.
Kostić has three goals and five assists in this season's competition and was described as "world class" by the UEFA technical observer for his dangerous runs and dribbles, crosses and cut-backs, and he also showed his willingness to work hard defensively for his team. The prospect of him going head to head in the final with Tavernier, Rangers' right-back and driving force, is mouth-watering to say the least given the latter's attacking threat.
Tavernier has scored seven goals and provided two assists, and each man is his team's primary source of crosses. Indeed Kostić and Tavernier rank first and second in the entire competition for most crosses attempted, with 147 and 90 respectively (and 33 and 22 completed respectively). Whoever comes out on top when they go head to head should have a big say in the eventual outcome in Seville on 18 May.
Olivier Glasner, Frankfurt coach: "I was really stressed until the final whistle. We made too many unforced errors in possession and West Ham still managed to put us under pressure with long balls and set pieces. They gave it everything and played very physically.
"With the red card we got into the game more and scored a nice goal. We knew they play off the second balls and are very physical. It was important that we stood up to that. The way that the boys defended with such passion, with Kevin [Trapp] backing them up, was fantastic. In the second half we defended the long balls and set pieces with everything we had.
"West Ham threw everything forward. After a difficult opening period, we scored a great goal. Congratulations to the team for what they achieved again tonight. Together with our fans behind us, it was an unbelievable night."
David Moyes, West Ham manager: "A lot of teams would have crumbled and maybe ended up getting beaten by more. We kept right in the game the whole time. Tonight, we had to play the best part of 75 minutes with ten, so the players are brilliant. How they've worked and their resilience to keep going ... and actually, I thought they tried to take the game to Frankfurt and had chances.
"If we're being honest, we probably lost the tie in the first minute at the game at London Stadium, when we conceded a goal after 50 seconds, and since then we've been chasing the tie."