Despite Eintracht Frankfurt’s matches producing the highest number of goals in Europe’s top-five leagues, Friday’s encounter with Borussia Monchengladbach ended goalless.
The Eagles were without the Bundesliga’s leading goalscorer Alexander Meier who has undergone surgery on his knee and will be out for the remainder of the season. The 31-year-old had scored 19 goals for the club this term.
But Frankfurt’s ambitions to secure European football remain alive with another five games left on the schedule. Thomas Schaaf’s men have closed in on sixth-placed Augsburg who are three points ahead. A favorable outcome in the German Cup could even open up seventh place to a European contender.
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The Foals, meanwhile, are still in third place are just a handful of games away from securing a place in next season’s UFEA Champions League. Gladbach is 12 points ahead of fifth-place Schalke, the nearest challengers to breaking their strangehold on the top-four.
After their 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund that ensured their best league performance in 31 years, Lucien Favre reverted to the tried-and-trusted — the only change being Christoph Kramer who returned from a one-game suspension.
Gladbach comprehensively beat the yellow-and-blacks last Saturday, showing their counter-attacking strengths to the full potential. The usual combinations linked up in attack and Raffael had the ball in the back of the net in the 12th minute, but the assistant referee had flagged for offside.
The home side hadn’t won in three games — their last outing a 4-0 defeat at Bayern Munich — and was also managing an inconvenient number of omissions with Marco Russ, Carlos Zambrano, attacking-midfielder Marc Stendera, as well, as leading marksman Meier missing out.
The responsibility lay with Haris Seferovic to be the penalty box poacher and on 19 minutes he blazed the sort of chance that Meier would devour. The 23-year-old Swiss striker needed to just side-foot the ball past the committed Yann Sommer but his composure was lacking.
Neither team took advantage of the ebb-and-flow which actually suited the counter-attacking, strong transitional play in both sides. Gladbach was unusually sloppy in the last-third. On 21 minutes, American winger Fabian Johnson side-stepped his marker and fired past the target after sound work from fullback Oscar Wendt on the flank.
But the best of the first-half chances fell to Thomas Schaaf’s men. On the 33rd minute, Sommer made a very strong save from Nelson Valdez’s close-range header that was certainly heading for the back of the net.
Seven minutes later, a counter-attack ended in Sonny Kittel’s goal bound shot forcing a terrific last-ditch challenge from Gladbach skipper Tony Jantschke. Sommer was once again alert before the break to keep out Alexander Madlung’s header.
The second-half continued in the same manner as the first: Both teams applied themselves, aimed to maintain a high-tempo in both defending and attacking, yet there was little penetration.
Gladbach’s Granit Xhaka tested Kevin Trapp with a lovely long-range effort, but the German keeper was up to the task. Then on 69 minutes, the normally prolific wide-man Stefan Aigner slalomed past his opponent and with the goal at his mercy, he dragged his left-foot shot wide of the target.
In the last 20 minutes, the visitors — who lost the home clash to Frankfurt 3-1 — couldn’t quite turn any of their transitions into goals with some weak play in attack. Favre even decided to take off the red-hot Patrick Herrmann in the last quarter of an hour, but his replacement Ibrahima Traore and the young Belgian Thorgan Hazard could add some potency to the attack.
In stoppage time, Trapp denied Traore and Hazard from teaming up to score the winner, the Frankfurt number palming the ball clear of goal from the Belgian’s tame strike.
Even without three points, Gladbach’s Champions League aims are strong and Favre’s men are six points behind second-placed Wolfsburg on 54 points.