Eintracht Frankfurt: From relegation candidates to German Cup finalists
On 8th March 2016, Niko Kovač was appointed as the manager of Eintracht Frankfurt as they desperately looked to avoid relegation to the second division.
On his first match in charge, Frankfurt went on to lose 3-0 to Borussia Mönchengladbach courtesy goals from Lars Stindl, Raffael and Mahmoud Dahoud. Frankfurt then came back stronger and beat Borussia Dortmund, effectively ending their title race. The Eagles finished 16th and beat promotion candidate, 1.FC Nürnberg 2-1 on aggregate, in the promotion play-offs, retaining their Bundesliga status.
Fast forward to May 2017, Frankfurt sit comfortably on 11th and are in the German Cup (also known as the DFB-Pokal) final. To understand this fully, let us rewind back to the start of the 2016/17 Bundesliga campaign.
Niko Kovač’s Frankfurt lost only 3 times in their first 15 matches of the season beating Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund on the way. Though Frankfurt’s fine form came to a halt after the winter break as they won only 3 games and are now 11th in the table, the chances of a European qualification spot remains with two matches still to be played. Tough but not impossible.
Frankfurt’s journey to the DFB-Pokal final
Frankfurt are unbeaten in the cup this season. Out of the 5 matches played, they won 2 and drew 3. In the first round, they travelled to face 1.FC Magdeburg, a 3.Liga (third division) side. Branimir Hrgota scored an early goal for the visitors but Nico Hammann equalized for 1.FC Magdeburg in the 75th minute, which took the match into extra-time and ultimately into penalties. The match ended 3-4 in favour of Frankfurt as they advanced to the second round.
In the second round, Frankfurt were at home to league rivals FC Ingolstadt, which again went into penalties after a goaless scoreline and Frankfurt won by a comfortable margin of 4-1. Thus, they qualified for the round of 16 and faced Hannover 96 at the Niedersachsenstadion.
Martin Harnik scored just after the break to make it 1-0 in favour of Hannover but two quick goals by Taleb Tawatha and Haris Seferović sealed a 1-2 victory for Frankfurt and then they went on to beat Arminia Bielefield courtesy a solitary 6th minute strike by Danny Blum, which took Frankfurt into the semi-finals.
Hopes shimmered for the Frankfurt fans as they dreamt of a spot in the final. In the semis, they were up against a resilient Gladbach side, brimming with talents. It was going to be another tough encounter as Frankfurt hadn’t won a single match at Borussia-Park for the past 3 years. However, Frankfurt looked confident. The match started and Frankfurt took an early lead courtesy a Tawatha strike, only for Gladbach to equalize in the dying minutes of half-time, as Jonas Hofmann put one past the Frankfurt goal. No goals in the second half and in extra-time ensureed another penalty shoot-out. A pulsating 13 penalties were taken before Frankfurt came out on top and the match ended – 6-7, on penalties.
It was an historic night for the Eagles as they booked their place in the final to be played at the iconic Olympiastadion Berlin, for the first time in 11 years. Frankfurt are now only a step from winning their 5th DFB-Pokal title as they face a Borussia Dortmund side full of attacking prowess in the finals. Mark you dates on 27th May 2017, as another pulsating encounter seems to be on the card.