Gcreates! The “milestone” promised by CEO Axel Hellmann has actually been reached. Eintracht is in the round of 16 of the Champions League after a rollercoaster game. Coach Oliver Glasner’s team made a perfect entry into the field of the 16 best teams in Europe with a 2-1 win at Sporting Lisbon.
A victory for the Portuguese was the goal that the self-confident Europa League winners had set themselves in their debut season among the greats at the end of the group phase. All arithmetic games in the highly exciting group D were therefore obsolete. Eintracht was able to get into the knockout stage on its own – and that’s exactly what they did in front of 41,744 spectators.
Having started weakly, Glasner’s team improved, especially in the second half, in which Daichi Kamada converted a hand penalty (62nd minute) and Randal Kolo Muani (72nd) converted Sporting’s lead through Arthur Gomes (39th) into a much-acclaimed one transformed victory. “Unbelievable. Normally I’m good at understanding, but I’m lacking here too,” said SBU President Peter Fischer, shaking his head.
“This is the next highlight for Eintracht Frankfurt. The game was suitable for all the emotions,” said the outstanding Sebastian Rode. And sports director Markus Krösche added: “This is a historic moment and a very special day.” Who Eintracht will face in the round of 16, which will be played between February 14 and March 15, will be decided in the draw on 7 November in Nyon.
It is good manners at Eintracht that the club invites people to informal get-togethers in unusual places before important European games. Most recently, such a meeting took place under the label “Frankfurt Embassy” on the eve of the Europa League final in Seville – now in Lisbon. In the mood for the evening in Parque Eduardo VII, the botanical garden of the Portuguese capital, the film was made with the clear announcement: “We always want to go up to the stars.”
Hellmann knew that coach Glasner’s team wanted to reach for the stars and make it through to the knockout phase of the premier class. “All we need is heart,” said Eintracht’s board spokesman in an atmosphere reminiscent of Frankfurt’s Palmengarten. “Tuesday will be a good, wonderful day,” Hellmann encouraged himself and the 350 guests.
“The family is on tour,” he said when he met many friends, sponsors and companions of the association. “This is a great place.” The other great place in the Portuguese capital on match night was supposed to be Sporting’s stadium. Inspired by the desire to actually make it into the round of 16 in the Champions League, Hellmann spoke of an “extraordinary, extraordinary, absolute dream”.
Dreams can come true. If the performance is right, if the structure is right – and if Eintracht ultimately plays football like they did on the evening of November 1st. Compared to the Bundesliga league game against Borussia Dortmund, coach Glasner only made a change in one position, as expected. Djibril Sow was there from the start, captain Sebastian Rode initially took a seat on the bench.
Eintracht found it very difficult to initiate their game against Sporting. The Portuguese were better. Nevertheless, it was Eintracht that had the first chance. It wasn’t a Frankfurt striker, but a Sporting pro in Paulinho, who almost scored an own goal with his head after a Mario Götze corner (12th minute).
After that, however, Glasner’s team didn’t understand how to assert themselves offensively and put Sporting keeper Antonio Adán under pressure at all. The result: Lisbon went happily, but they deserved a 1-0 lead. Sow had extended a cross ball from Manuel Ugarte with his head – and Arthur then had no trouble defeating Kevin Trapp (39th).
Because Marseille led 1-0 against Tottenham at half-time in the parallel game, Eintracht was eliminated as bottom of the table at that point. Should the hand still change after the change of sides?
The fact that around 8000 tickets had not been sold caused heated spirits in advance. Sporting Lisbon were not willing to sell tickets to willing Eintracht supporters. The Portuguese feared a similar disaster to that experienced by FC Barcelona when they lost to Eintracht at the Camp Nou on April 14, who were supported by more than 30,000 spectators in the stadium.
Talks between those responsible for Eintracht and representatives from Sporting had had no effect. Even more: By the beginning of the second half, around 800 Frankfurt fans were still missing. The march of the supporters, Eintracht said, had been lengthened by the police. In addition, there was insufficient admission management.
Rode came on after the break for Jesper Lindström, who had been completely ineffective up to that point, and became the decisive player. In the 59th minute, Sporting captain Sebastián Coates grabbed his hand in the penalty area after a header duel with Kamada: penalty. After a short break, the Japanese didn’t miss the chance to equalize 1-1 (62′).
Eintracht was third again at this point, Tottenham had also equalized. The fact that Glasner substituted Ansgar Knauff for Junior Dina Ebimbe in the 69th minute should have consequences. Because it was Knauff who served Kolo Muani with a pass. The Frenchman struck ice-cold and shot in to make it 2-1 (72′). What a dramaturgy, what an arc of suspense. The round of 16 was within reach. And reality as the referee blew the whistle to cheers from players, coaches and fans.