Oliver Glasner ran towards the fans with his team, but, unlike his players, the coach of Eintracht Frankfurt stopped getting to the white and black mass. With his arms crossed and at a distance, Glasner continued the celebrations among his team and supporters. As if in the huge screen cinema, he seemed impressed by the sky-high stands of the stadium, where 3,000 Eintracht fans were making noises as if they were 30,000 as if they were in Barcelona recently.
The never-ending euphoria – the players tossed their shirts into the crowd and hugged the spectators in the lower rows – Glasner must have been aware of the upheaval he just made. For the first time since 1980, half an eternity, Eintracht from Frankfurt is close to reaching the European Cup final with a wonderful 2-1 (1-1) victory over West Ham United in the first leg of the European League semi-final. .
However, for players and coaches who haven’t made it that far at international level, it may be a good idea not to think about it before Thursday’s second leg. The historical dimension can be just as overwhelming as the strength of this club – the professional division is likely to be pushed to the highest level by the strength of the fans. Glasner noted that in Frankfurt there is “only the Europa League as an issue”. This can become an ‘unquantifiable effect’ that raises ‘a few extra points’.
Frankfurt are unbeaten in all eleven competitive matches in this round of the European League
Unlike the 2018 DFB Cup winners in Frankfurt, who reached the semi-finals of the European League in 2019, and who had the impressive personalities of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ante Rebic and Luka Jovic, the current success depends especially on the team effort – or rather Co-existence between players and fans in the club’s performance. The fact that all professionals contribute equally to the collective is supposed to be Glasner’s greatest compliment.
In deference to Frankfurt’s well-trained operations, West Ham boss David Moyes has aligned his squad with the change to a three-man defense after Eintracht. But the Londoners’ plan to reverse the opponent’s standings in order to exploit the supposed individual (and physical) superiority in many duels only worked when Mikhail Antonio made it 1-1 in the meantime (21st minute). Instead, Frankfurt’s Ansgar Knauf used a positioning error by Pablo Fornals, who had little experience as a left winger, to take the lead after just 51 seconds. Knauf, who was mainly playing in the third division until the winter change, is considered one of the discoveries of the second half of the season.
As Eintracht didn’t have a single goal in his position in the first half of the season, sporting director Marcus Kroes took him on loan from Dortmund – a direct hit. Due to his speed and agility, Eintracht now has a counterpart to Philipp Kostik on the left, one of the team’s most sought-after players. At the same time, Glasner tightened his defense, paying special attention to the protection of the counterattack.
Against West Ham as well, it was clear that the gaps between the different parts of the team were narrow. Glasner said his players’ performance was “simply fantastic” – especially the winning goal by Daichi Kamada (54th place), which was preceded by a superb pass from Jesper Lindstrom. This means that Frankfurt remain unbeaten in all eleven competitive matches in this round of the European League.
There is only one long-awaited semi-final exam left
Compared to seventh place in the Premier League, which was significantly increased by the expectations of nearly 60,000 fans at home in the London Stadium, Frankfurt seemed to benefit from the European Cup experience in previous seasons. In particular, the pivot around goalkeeper Trapp, defender Hinterger and the more conspicuous Rudd, who played a part in the agonizing penalty shootout in the semi-final against Chelsea three years ago, radiates sovereignty and maturity. West Ham, who was injured in the center of the defence, did not have this self-image.
Glasner, 47, laid the foundation for this with skilful coaching management and a clear focus on international competition, although the Austrian has never faced such a challenge in his coaching career. The team managed to split their forces – despite the last seven confrontations in 22 days. Last but not least, feature head athletics Andreas Beck and team doctor Florian Fab and their staff.
Before the final, Frankfurt now had only one test left. Unlike previous Europa League matches, Eintracht then bears the burden of being able to lose something for the first time. But it is better not to think about it.