League leaders Bayern Munich stumbled for a third successive game after they were held by an impressive Eintracht Frankfurt at the Commerzbank-Arena on Saturday.
Arjen Robben opened the scoring for Die Roten before Szabolcs went from hero to villain, getting sent off in the 65th minute after bringing the Eagles level just before the halftime whistle. Bayern’s lead, however, was restored already before the red card when Joshua Kimmich continued to excel on his scoring department but Mexican midfielder Marco Fabian gave Frankfurt a deserved equaliser as Niko Kovac’s men held on for a point against the mighty Bayern.
Bayern defence marked a special occasion as new signing Mats Hummels started alongside his national team partner Jerome Boateng first time in a Bayern jersey, ahead of Manuel Neuer in goal. David Alaba and Philip Lahm, as usual, filled in the fullback positions.
Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal was rested due to his long journey to Chile, as Xabi Alonso, Thiago and Joshua Kimmich confronted the midfield. While Robert Lewandowski was having his fair share of scoring troubles (along with some fitness issues) as he was left on the bench. Thomas Muller started in his place alongside Arjen Robben and Kingsley Coman.
Niko Kovac, on the other hand, loaded his side’s defence, by deploying a 5-2-2-1 formation against the Champions.
The defensive trio of Michael Hector, David Abraham and Jesus Vallejo formed a three-man defensive chain with Bastian Oczipka and Timothy Chandler as wingbacks. The central midfield combination comprised of Spanish midfielder Omar Mascarell and Szabolcs Huszti with Marco Fabian and Ante Rebic deployed further forward behind the lone striker Alex Meier.
The game started with high intensity as Eintracht began to press Bayern in their own half to prevent their buildup from the back. While Meier was quick to check down the two ball playing centre backs, Rebic and Fabian should also get the credit of using their cover-shadows well to prevent the ball being circulated to the middle.
The foremost reason of Bayern’s lack of turbulence was the absence of hardcore midfielder Arturo Vidal in the middle. Meaning Bayern having less physicality in the middle, with none of the deployed midfielders in Alonso, Thiago or Kimmich being known for their physique. This handed the two Frankfurt guys in Mascarell and Huszti to hunt the ball in the middle third of the pitch. Indeed! The constant pressing influencing from the middle, caused Bayern dispossessed off the ball easily enough. Xabi Alonso was dispossessed once while Alaba (known for his ability to get churned off the ball easily) got knocked off the ball twice.
Ante Rebic’s instalment ahead of Haris Seferovic proved to be a handy decision by Niko Kovac. The Fiorentina loanee caused havoc on the left side. Completing three dribbles, two chances and putting away two shots, The Croatian International was a focal point of Eintracht’s attack.
Playing alongside Rebic was Marco Fabian, the Mexican attacking midfielder, who has been one of Eintracht’s best players this season. But surprisingly, Fabian’s contribution on defence proved more pivotal than his offensive work on the night. Fabian attempted three crosses, took four shots! And interestingly, the 27-year-old managed FOUR interceptions!
Another reason for Die Alder dominance was the temerity of the two fullbacks in Oczipka and Chandler. While former Leverkusen man Oczipka stayed relatively deeper to help out the defence, Chandler proved to be a constant threat on the offence. The duo made a combined five interceptions, seven tackles, six clearances while on the offence, and Chandler on his own took two shots, made five crosses and created four chances along with an assist!
Even though Eintracht conceded more shots than their season average of 9 shots against/per game, they did manage to peg back Bayern from having a hilarious number of shots (season average of 19!). Letting them shoot 14 times, the defence also pulled out a stunning performance. David Abraham has been a revelation this season under the guidance of new coach Niko Kovac but not just him, his Spanish partner in defence Jesus Vallejo was also a key component for the Eagles defence. The trio combined a total of eight interceptions, a staggering 18 clearances, blocking five shots and attempting 17 tackles!
All in all, it was a well-deserved point for a hard working Frankfurt side, who stay unbeaten in all of their four home matches so far. As for Bayern, their rough patch under Carlo Ancelotti continues as they are now winless in their last three matches all competition. The Italian head coach took a rant on Bayern after the draw stating “We didn’t play well, we didn’t show a good attitude, we played against a side that were more aggressive with a different attitude”
“We slept for almost all the first 45 minutes. The second half was a little bit better, but in the end, it’s the right result for both teams.” – the former Real Madrid manager said about his team’s performances per ESPN.
Bayern will now look to get back on winning way when they face Dutch Champions PSV Eindhoven in midweek in the UEFA Champions League!
Anas Ali Molla
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