De Jong Strikes Against Goalless Eagles

It has been over seven hours of football since Eintracht Frankfurt scored a goal, not since Srdjan Lakić scored in the 36th minute in the 0-2 win at the Imtech Arena against HSV a month ago.

Today Eintracht showed a bit more threat in front of goal with the return of Takashi Inui from suspension but still failed to properly test Marc-André ter Stegen in the Gladbach goal, with only two shots on target from 14 goal chances. Meanwhile, it was almost the opposite for Lucien Favre’s men, as they made the most of their scarce chances (most of which came in the first half) and it was a ‘rare’ goal for Luuk de Jong halfway through the first half that sealed all three points for the Foals. And how important could they be?

Gladbach will sit in European places again, at least until 5.30pm tomorrow, and this win will definitely boost the moral at Borussia Park regardless of how results turn out tomorrow. After their elimination at the hands of Lazio in Europe, Gladbach will be desperate to get back into Europe next season and if they can carry on pulling effective victories against tough opposition, they should very well be in the mix.

Gladbach’s defence was impressive in containing Lakić and Meier today, with Domínguez and Stranzl matching both of them throughout the game. Alex Meier was the target of many high balls from the wings but Stranzl matched him every time or made it difficult for Eintracht’s top scorer to get a comfortable header in.

One striker who had no problems heading the ball today was Luuk de Jong, who scored his fourth goal of the season with an excellent header from inside the area. Håvard Nordtveit swung in the corner to the near post which was flicked backwards by Thorben Marx and de Jong beat Zambrano to the ball and directed it to the back of the net past Kevin Trapp. After that, Gladbach contained Eintracht well despite not seeing much of the ball (60-40 to the home side), seeming steady at the back although perhaps the reason why they saw so little of the ball was the amount of balls they misplaced throughout the game, over 20% of them.

A strange half-time decision by Armin Veh brought Stefan Celozzi on for Lakić, who despite not having enjoyed his best ever 45 minutes was still a presence up front for Eintracht. Because of that, Eintracht’s attacking weight fell even more onto Takashi Inui during the second half, with the Japanese player bringing an element of speed to the Eintracht attack that had been lacking in the last few games. However, he seemed far too accelerated all game long and the accuracy and effectiveness that the tricky winger had showed in the Hinrunde were nowhere to be seen today, despite all of his hard efforts. So keen seemed Inui to get on the scoresheet that, many a time, he failed to see his teammates in better shooting positions, which saw inevitable gestures of frustration from his teammates.

After all these games without a goal and a win, it could seem that Eintracht’s bubble has burst and that even a European place is under threat for Armin Veh’s men, especially with Freiburg, HSV and now Gladbach breathing down their necks despite not being in form themselves.

Kevin Trapp has been sensational so far this season, especially this Rückrunde, although it has to be said that having Carlos Zambrano in front of him doesn’t make his task any easier. The Peruvian stopper showed his weaknesses and dubious tactics once again today, which were partly at fault for Gladbach’s goal, as it was Zambrano who was marking de Jong and allowed him to head his team into the lead. His passing today from the back was not up to scratch either, misplacing 15 of his passes, 22% of his total amount. Clumsiness in tackles, high-flying elbows and loose kicking got on the opposition’s nerves, especially de Jong and Oscar Wendt, also to the fury of Lucien Favre on the touchline. There’s no doubt that Zambrano is one of the weak links in this Eintracht team but with the unwillingness of Veh to change his side will put no end to this hole in the team’s performances.

Perhaps that’s another of Eintracht’s problems, with most of the starting XI having played almost all matches and tiredness could perhaps be starting to sink in. His strange decision to remove Lakić for Celozzi also made things harder for his side up front, since the former Wolfsburg man has been an attacking presence that the Eagles have been lacking all season and that has taken the pressure off the attacking midfielders to score goals. Despite not having had the best of halves, the Croatian striker would still have had a role to play in the second half and, in hindsight, Eintracht could have done with a poaching striker’s instinct during their second half siege of ter Stegen’s goal.

This result leaves both teams with totally opposite tastes in their mouths, as Eintracht will feel that European football is slipping away from them whilst Gladbach will feel that they could still make it into Europe, a pleasant feeling after the relatively poor season they have endured so far in comparison with the standards they had set themselves in August. In a league which has seen Bayern München’s strength in squad depth take them 17 points clear at the top, it might be the same reason but the other way around that could deprive Eintracht of a dream return to European football in their first season back in the top flight, no doubt a massive let-down for their fans after their excellent Hinrunde.

Header courtesy of Reuters

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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