Two Europa League matches included German representation this Thursday as SC Freiburg made the difficult trip to Seville whilst Eintracht Frankfurt flew across Europe to the beautiful island of Cyprus to take on APOEL Nicosia. With both sides currently in the lower end of the table, with Freiburg struggling especially in the relegation spots, it’s still unclear whether this European adventure will be of any benefit to them or, quite simply, an unwelcome distraction and, in Freiburg’s case, bad for morale.
Sevilla CF 2 SC Freiburg 0
In the earlier of the two kickoffs, Freiburg faced a Sevilla team who have struggled at the foot of the Spanish table in the beginning of the season. After having lost key men Álvaro Negredo and Jesús Navas, both to Manchester City, they are not the powerhouse that they used to be. Bundesliga fans will have recognised former Gladbach and Werder Bremen winger Marko Marin in their ranks, who had to settle for a place on the bench victim of rotation, alongside former Schalke man Ivan Rakitić and ex-HSV midfielder Piotr Trochowski, back after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Christian Streich meanwhile made his priorities clear by not taking Julian Schuster nor Jonathan Schmid with him to the Andalusian capital, wanting them fresh for Sunday’s tricky match against, precisely, Eintracht Frankfurt. It seems quite clear that Freiburg are in for a struggle to maintain their Bundesliga status this season and Streich knows it, even club president Fritz Keller who paraphrased this to the press before the match.
The match was a grey one. Sevilla dominated from the off thanks to Rakitić, who sitting deeper than he was accustomed in his previous clubs enjoys a much bigger impact on the play. Sevilla’s only real chance in the first half came from Jairo but Oliver Baumann was equal to it. Mike Hanke seemed like the only player interested in going forwards for Freiburg and the goalless score at half-time was well deserved all around.
In the second half, the inclusion of Marin for Trochowski changed the dynamic of the game, with Marin’s speed and threat a cause for concern to the Freiburg defence. Seeing that Freiburg were toothless up front, Seville increased the pressure and an excellent pass by Jairo saw Bacca receive in the box but was brought down by Senegalese defender Fallou Diagné, who received his second red card in just six days after his sending off last week in the 5-0 defeat against Borussia Dortmund. Perotti converted and Freiburg’s resistance was broken. Not even after the goal did Freiburg increase their attacking presence, although the entrance of Sebastian Freis did help momentarily. The match was finished off by Bacca himself in injury time after yet another great and generous square ball from man-of-the-match Jairo that left Baumann helpless. Freiburg now are third in the group with a single point after last week’s draw against Czech side Slovan Liberec. It seems that Freiburg’s appearances in this season’s Europa League will be merely pointless.
Other group H score:
Slovan Liberec 2-1 GD Estoril Praia
APOEL Nicosia 0 Eintracht Frankfurt 3
Eintracht Frankfurt endured a different experience on their trip to Cyprus. Armin Veh made only one change from their draw against HSV last weekend by swapping Stefan Aigner for Srđan Lakić. Judging by their performance today, it’s hard to believe that the Cypriots reached the Champions League Quarter Final just two seasons ago, as the Frankfurt train steamrolled all over them. Despite enjoying more of the ball, Eintracht needed a helping hand to break the deadlock, as a Sebastian Jung cross deflected off Nektarios Alexandrou past Urko Pardo and into the goal on 27 minutes.
The goal allowed Eintracht to fully take charge of the match and they reinforced their superiority after 15 minutes of the second half, when Lakić played a clever one-two with Václav Kadlec and scored with a cool finish under Urko’s legs to make it 2-0. Less than ten minutes later, a quick free-kick taken by Johannes Flum fell straight into the path of Sebastian Jung charging up on the right flank, who, with acres of space, finished with striker’s efficiency for his team’s third of the match.
APOEL’s inability to create any real danger throughout the match made what potentially could have been a difficult trip a placid one for Veh’s men. At first, one might have thought that Girondins Bordeaux might have been Eintracht’s main rival for that top spot but with their loss today against Maccabi Tel-Aviv (1-2) added to their opening one against Eintracht (3-0), the Eagles now sit top of their group with 6 points, two ahead of Maccabi who will be their next rivals in three week’s time. Unlike Freiburg, Eintracht can use the Europa League to find form, build confidence and most likely go through to the next round.
Other Group F score:
Girondins Bordeaux 1-2 Maccabi Tel Aviv