Die Fohlen of Borussia Mönchengladbach cruised into a Round of 16 tie with Kickers Offenbach thanks to a straightforward win away to Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday night. Still in disarray, seemingly, from their back-and-forth clash with VfB Stuttgart on Saturday, Thomas Schaaf’s men fell feebly to two excellently worked goals by Thorgan Hazard and Ibrahima Traore; a late Vaclav Kadlec consolation wasn’t enough to force extra time, although did make for a grandstand finale.
(Joining Gladbach in the Round of 16 are Bayer Leverkusen, RB L:eipzig, SC Freiburg, Eintracht Braunwchweig, Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg, Arminia Bielefeld, Werder Bremen, Kickers Offenbach, VfR Aalen, Dynamo Dresden, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, 1. FC Koln and Borussia Dortmund).
Frankfurt started proceedings the better, with Swiss forward Haris Seferovic shrugging off the challenge of Martin Stranzl in the opening few minutes, taking down a long ball from midfield and firing narrowly wide of his compatriot Yann Sommer’s left-hand post. The opening exchanges were, by and large, though, a story of two teams bogged down in midfield; die Fohlen couldn’t penetrate the Frankfurt rearguard while the hosts found it hard to create anything clear-cut of their own either. This frustration showed early on, with both teams trying to transition too quickly, thus ceding any attempts at ball retention.
One such example was in the opening quarter of an hour; Alvaro Dominguez, back at left back following a stellar performance on Sunday in his more familiar position of centre back, hooked a nice ball over the Frankfurt defence, but clearly hadn’t compensated for the fact that the man on the end of it – Branimir Hrgota – isn’t the most physical of strikers, and though the Swede stuck out a despairing right leg, he couldn’t quite bring the ball into his stride to force Felix Wiedwald and his defence into some evasive action.
Not to worry, though; Wiedwald would be needed not long afterwards. After a bit of a shocker on Saturday – where the young custodian had been dropping the ball all over the place and looked insecure on set pieces, Wiedwald showed his credentials as both a decent goalkeeper and in learning from his mistakes, closing down the angles on a Max Kruse probing run to force the ball out for a corner with a good save, before denying Stranzl with a strong palm from the ensuing dead-ball.
Wiedwald was, however, hopeless in denying Chelsea loanee Thorgan Hazard minutes later; Kruse picked up the ball on the edge of the area with seemingly nothing doing, but noticing a lack of Frankfurt men on the right side of their defence, the former Freiburg attacker slipped a neat ball through a miniscule gap, leaving Hazard with the whole goal at his mercy. Fortunately for Borussia, Hazard had the emphatic finish to match the dangerous situation his teammate Kruse had created, and die Fohlen had galloped into an early lead with not yet twenty minutes gone on the clock.
The game continued in this vein; Mönchengladbach creating chance upon chance – but unfortunately they were unable to finish . Halfway through the half, Dominguez paced down the left, leaving his man for dead before squaring to Ibrahima Traore whose shot was skewed narrowly over; the Guinean international could have done better, but had little time to adjust his body to the ball. Hrgota then forced a good save out of Wiedwald after excellent work by Hazard, before scooping a similar chance over just before half time – also laid on by Hazard.
Kruse then flashed a low drive across goal towards Hrgota but the ball was overhit; nonetheless, Frankfurt had very few similar chances. On the stroke of half time, Stefan Aigner sent a diving header over after excellent wing play by Seferovic, but Sommer was never seriously tested in the first half.
That would change. After the break, Frankfurt began to look more menacing going forward; firstly, Alexander Madlung mistimed a header from a free-kick – maybe nothing massive, but a heart in the mouth moment for Gladbach fans after his goalscoring exploits at the weekend – before Vaclav Kadlec found himself with the goal at his mercy after neat interplay by his teammates. The Czech striker had to deal with the onrushing Sommer,, who with his trailing leg managed to hook the ball away, easily making the save of the game.
As the match ebbed and flowed in each direction it seemed difficult to predict which way it would end, but Dominguez was clearly keen to make an impression; bombing up and down the left flank, the Spaniard created several chances for Borussia and eventually managed to lay on the second goal of the evening; a low ball behind the Frankfurt defence towards Kruse was cut out, but only as far as to Dominguez himself who tried again, this time with a looping cross to the far post from which the former Stuttgart speedster Traore turned into a 2-0 lead just after the hour mark.
At this point, it seemed the floodgates could open, with very obvious parallels to Mönchengladbach’s games with the likes of Schalke and Hannover this season, where a goal around the hour mark has given the scoreline an air of menace usually only befitting an absolute rout. It threatened to become one, though, after the introduction of Patrick Herrmann; the diminutive winger first dribbled through the Frankfurt defence, giving Kruse a good sight of goal (which ultimately wasn’t used), but later in driving through the entire defence itself and only being denied Borussia’s third of the evening thanks to excellent positional play by Wiedwald.
As the game ebbed away, Kadlec made things interesting with a tidy goal just before stoppage time; doing everything Herrmann had done so well minutes before but with the added bonus of slipping it past the goalkeeper. It set up a tense finale – and what could so easily have been a slightly fortuitous crack at extra time against an impressive Mönchengladbach side – but ultimately it was Borussia who had the better chance afterwards, too, with Kruse volleying towards the top corner just before time – Wiedwald made another excellent save to keep respectability in the scoreline for Die Adler.
Interestingly, Kadlec’s goal brought a run of almost 400 minutes without conceding a goal to an end for Borussia Mönchengladbach – it had been almost 4 full games and an hour of the game against Mainz since Jonas Hofmann’s penalty in early October. That run is testament to Favre’s men and in particular Yann Sommer, who’s been imperious in his few months in Germany so far.
Overall, then, an exciting evening for Foals around the world; Frankfurt may be disappointed with the nature of the loss, with it being relatively straightforward in the end, but their cup exit does allow for more focus on the league which, in Schaaf’s first season with a squad in flux, isn’t a negative thing. And with Andre Hahn’s former club, Kickers Offenbach, awaiting in the Round of 16, Mönchengladbach’s dreams of further cup heroics could yet be fulfilled.
Eintracht Frankfurt 1:2 (0:1) Borussia Mönchengladbach:
Hazard (17.), Traore (67.), Kadlec (89.).
Frankfurt: Wiedwald – Ignjovski (Inui, 68.), Madlung, Anderson, Oczipka – Russ, Medojevic – Aigner, Hasebe, Stendera – Seferovic (Kadlec, 48.)
Mönchengladbach: Sommer – Korb, Stranzl, Jantschke, Dominguez – Traore (Hahn, 71.), Nordtveit, Kramer, Hazard (Johnson, 85.) – Kruse, Hrgota (Herrmann, 71.)
Jantschke 41., Dominguez 68.