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FC Barcelona are out of the Europa League. Eintracht Frankfurt have come away from the Camp Nou with a 3-2 win on the night, 4-3 on aggregate, and it will be them who face West Ham United in the semi-finals while Xavi Hernández and his team will only be able to reflect on what could have been.
The Bundesliga side showed that their 1-1 draw at Deutsche Bank Park was no one-off by stunning the Camp Nou, leading 2-0 at the break and adding a third in the second half.
Even so, Barça refused to give up, and the late drive produced thrills aplenty as they came frustratingly close to doing the impossible.
The game could not have got off to a worse start for Barça. It was just three minutes old when Eric Garcia pulled down Jesper Lindstrøm in the box and it was hard to argue with the referee’s verdict that that was a penalty.
Filip Kostic converted and the swathes of German supporters in the ground made such a noise that one could have been forgiven for thinking Barça had scored.
Much as Barça were quick to react, and the best of many chances was a Ronald Araujo header that Kevin Trapp tipped over the bar, Eintracht were creating just as much danger of their own and stunned the Camp Nou when Colombian striker Rafael Borré rifled home a strike from outside of the area.
From bad to worse
The Germans led 2-0 at half-time. That was worrying enough in itself, but had Eintracht taken other chances it could have been even worse. And an injured Pedri would not be coming back out for the second half.
Every time a shell-shocked Barça pushed forward in search of a way back into the game, Eintracht were catching them with counter attacks and on 67 minutes, Kostic scored his second of the night, this time from open play. The Serbian winger found himself in plenty of space on the edge of the area and managed to thread the ball under Sergiño Dest’s legs and beyond the reach of Ter Stegen.
Frustratingly, Barça had just had what looked like a good penalty claim turned down. That could have changed everything. Instead, Frankfurt now led 3-0, and exit from the Europa League was starting to look inevitable.
But Barça is not a team that ever gives up. Defeat may have been staring them in the face, but they picked themselves tremendously to give it everything they could in the final minutes.
It just needed one goal to get the momentum going. They seemed to have it when Sergio Busquets finally had the ball in the Eintracht net, but VAR ruled that he’d been a fraction offside.
But Busquets soon struck again. There was nothing wrong with his fabulous long range. 3-1.
The goal knocked all the confidence out of Eintracht. Knowing that there were no fewer than nine minutes of injury time yet to play, Barça were all over the Germans for the final minutes.
Barça are so strangers to miracles, but this time it wasn’t going to happen. A red card for Obite Evan Ndicka, and a late penalty that Memphis tucked home, sadly came with the last kick of the game.
No time for more. No time for miracles. The Europa League challenge is over.
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