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Barça have drawn 1-1 in Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League quarter final with Eintracht. They were 90 tough, intense moments on an awkward playing surface in which the Catalans never managed to get truly comfortable, not helped by the loss of Gerard Piqué to injury early in the proceedings.
It was the Germans who scored first, straight after the break with a brilliant strike for which nobody from Barça could be blamed. Ferran Torres then got the sides back level but despite playing the last quarter of an hour against ten men, the blaugrana were unable to add to their lead, leaving everything wide open for the return leg in seven days’ time.
The atmosphere in German stadia tends to be wonderful, and Deutsche Bank Park is clearly no exception. Clearly buoyed by the occasion, the home side belied their ninth place in the Bundesliga by presenting FC Barcelona with a stern test and a fitting tribute to club legend Jürgen Grabowski, who sadly passed away recently.
Although there were periods of Barça domination, they were never allowed to get fully into their stride, and there were plenty of phases when it was the Germans who were on top. Rather than sit back, Eintracht were not afraid to go forward in a game that was often played at a relentless pace, which was also encouraged by a referee who was ready to ignore all but the most physical of incidents.
The first half ended goalless. Barça’s best chance had come when Kevin Trapp produced an extraordinary save to deny Torres, while Djibril Sow will be gutted that he couldn’t do better when presented with a sure-fire opportunity to put Eintracht ahead.
There was also a penalty awarded to the home side, which was promptly overruled when VAR confirmed Sergio Busquets’ protest that he had played the ball.
Goals at both ends
Eintracht have never lost at home in the quarter or semi-finals of a UEFA competition, and their chances of keeping that record alive were boosted just three minutes after half-time. The ball fell to Ansgar Knauff on the edge of the Barça area and he delivered a thunderbolt of a finish to make it 1-0.
The Catalans found their response on 66 minutes. Ousmane Dembélé, on as a substitute in this game, set things in motion for a jaw-dropping double one-two between Frenkie de Jong (also a sub) and Torres before the latter stroked in a sweet finish to level things up.
Barça’s prospects looked even brighter when Brazilian centre-back Tuta received a second yellow card. Eintracht, wearing as they were anyway, were going to have to play the last 12 minutes with a man less.
They opted to draw back their lines and protect the result. Barça pushed in search of a winner. It didn’t come.
From what we’ve seen this evening, absolutely nothing is guaranteed against a very fine Eintracht side and Barça will need to produce a fine performance in the second leg.
But the theoretically harder part is over and 1-1 is a positive enough result to take into the remaining 90 minutes of this tie, which will of course be played on more familiar territory. Bring on next Thursday at Camp Nou!
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