In Saturday’s late match, an Eintracht Frankfurt side that had been grounded lately took flight again, swooping up their eighth win of the Hinrunde by downing Werder Bremen 4-1 at the Commerzbank Arena. Armin Veh’s team scored all four goals in a second half blitz that moved Die Adler into fourth place in the Bundesliga table, tied with Borussia Dortmund on 24 points but with Dortmund holding a lead in goal positive goal differential, 13-4. Werder Bremen, only three points behind Frankfurt when the game kicked off, failed again to post consecutive victories this season and played their third 4-1 game in succession, being on the losing end of that margin twice.
Tactics and Formations
After a brilliant start to their season, earning 19 points by the end of MatchDay 8, Eintracht Frankfurt had been in a tailspin, winning only once in their last seven games and losing their last two matches to Mainz and Fortuna Düsseldorf by a composite score of 7-1. Veh’s attack-oriented squad have been shut out three times in fifteen league matches, but came into MatchDay 16 fifth in league scoring. With Werder Bremen having scored only one less goal than the home side, and the teams combining to surrender 50 goals after fifteen matches each, Saturday promised to be full of goals at the Commerzbank Arena.
Veh made several changes to his starting XI following last week’s disaster in Düsseldorf. On the backline he exchanged Marc-Oliver Kempf and Vadim Demidov for former Freiburg man Heiko Butscher and Carlos Zambrano, while replacing Martin Lanig and Karim Matmour (serving his red-card suspension) with Pirmin Schwegler and Olivier Occéan. In contrast, Thomas Schaaf made but one change to the Werder lineup that shattered Hoffenheim last week and hammered the final nail in Markus Babbel’s coffin. The long-time Bremen coach returned deep holding midfielder Zlatko Junuzović, back from his card suspension, in place of 21 year-old midfielder Alexsandar Ignjovski and looked for a repeat of the offensive heroics provided by Marko Arnautovic, who had a hat trick against Hoffenheim.
Neither of the attacking clubs could find an opening goal in the first half, with Frankfurt the more decisive if unrewarded side. Nils Petersen had an early chance for the visitors, but could only shoot directly at goalkeeper Kevin Trapp. Schaaf’s team also missed on a three on two opportunity during the first 45 along with having a Petersen goal nullified by a foul. Chelsea-loanee Kevin De Bruyne beat Butscher, only to miss his shot while Frankfurt’s Occéan and Takashi Inui had chances blocked.
Second Half Fireworks
The game’s narrative changed quickly in the second half, as Frankfurt’s Alex Meier broke the deadlock two minutes after intermission. Following some good work down the left flank, Bastian Oczipka lofted a nice cross that the 6’5″Meier leapt for and headed past Mielitz for the game’s opening goal. (It was the tenth goal of the season for the long-time Frankfurt midfielder, tying him for the Bundesliga lead with Vedad Ibesivic). Werder Bremen found an equalizer in the 55th minute, though, as Petersen nodded in a perfectly threaded cross from Arnautovic.
Less than ten minutes later, though, Veh’s club had broken the game open. After receiving a pass, Pirmin Schwegler immediately reared back from a distance of 30 yards and placed a shot beyond Mieletz’ grasp inside the far post to regain the lead for the home team. Before Werder could regroup, Die Adler struck again. An alert Occéan picked the pockets of Werder’s defense and a slipping Lukas Schmitz, driving towards the touchline before squaring a ball from the left back to Stefan Aigner, who side-footed past Mielitz. Two goals in two minutes, and the crowd and players started to remember the taste of three points.
Werder Bremen scrambled to get back in the match during the last twenty minutes, with their best chance coming from Arnautovic, who forced a fine save from Trapp. But it was Frankfurt that earned the last goal of the contest, as Inui, who led both teams with six shots taken, scored from a perfect through ball from Sebastian Jung. Their 4-1 win came as the home side had the slightest of edges in touches (602-585), ground covered (.6 km more than Werder), passes completed (295-287) and tackles won (50.3%), with Werder having a narrow edge in corner kicks earned. Frankfurt led in shots taken, 17-12.
Saturday’s win was huge for Frankfurt and its fans, as the club’s recent struggles couldn’t help but remind supporters of the club’s fatal slide two seasons ago, when after a solid Hinrunde and a seventh place finish prior to winter break, the Eagles suffered a goal-drought of Biblical proportions and fell all the way down to relegation. This year’s Frankfurt squad, though, is not so dependent on the goal-scoring efforts of one player, as they were in 2010/2011 when Theofanis Gekas scored 16 of the club’s 31 goals. While Meier leads the team with ten strikes this season, Aigner now has six goals and Inui four, giving Veh a much more diverse attack. Saturday’s win stopped the club’s slide at the expense of a Werder side only three points behind, putting additional distance between them and a potential rival for a European spot. Die Adler finish the first half of the season next Saturday away against an improved Wolfsburg side.
Bremen proved once again that while the transition undergone with a big turnover in personal has gone decently, Schaaf hasn’t found a proven formula and a consistent XI that can bring consistent success. Although the final score flattered Frankfurt a bit, Bremen’s defense is still too easy to break down, and Mieletz has yet to prove that he can consistently perform at the high the level of the Bundesliga’s other young keepers. The loss was also costly for Werder in that fellow mid-table clubs Stuttgart, Freiburg and HSV found wins on MatchDay 16 while Hannover and Borussia Mönchengladbach both have the chance to bypass Werder following Sunday’s fixtures. Bremen finish the Hinrunde at home against Nürnberg next Sunday and there will be quite a bit of interest to see what the club does in the winter transfer window now that the long-running Schaaf-Allofs management team is no longer following the move of Sporting Director Allofs to Wolfsburg.
Header courtesy of welt.de & AP