Frankfurt, who languish in ninth spot in La Liga, tore the Catalan giants to shreds in a hugely impressive performance to secure their place in the semi-finals. Filip Kostic netted twice for the visitors either side of a stunning long-range strike from Rafael Santos Borre.
Kostic gave Frankfurt the fourth-minute lead from the penalty spot after Eric Garcia pulled Jesper Lindstroem to the ground and after the German side spurned multiple chances, Santos Borre deservedly doubled their lead with a goal-of-the-tournament contender.
Midway through the second half, Kostic added a third with a powerful left-footed finish into the corner and after Frankfurt spurned more chances, Barca launched a late rally. Sergio Busquets had a goal ruled out for offside in the 84 th minute and as the game ticked into injury time, the midfielder scored a scorching effort to set up a dramatic injury time.
The drama continued as Memphis Depay scored a penalty in the 11th minute of added time to reduce the score to 2-3 while the visiting side’s defender Evan N’Dicka was dismissed for a second yellow but Frankfurt held on to claim a deserved victory. Here are five talking points from an evening of high drama in Barcelona.
Tonight was the third game in Europe this season that Barcelona’s frailties have been exposed by a German side. They had already lost 3-0 twice against Bayern Munich this season, and now they have suffered another heavy defeat against a Bundesliga outfit. As Bayern forward Thomas Muller identified earlier in the season, Barca are exposed in this game because they ‘can’t cope with the intensity’ offered by those from other leagues.
Muller said after Bayern’s back-to-back three-goal wins over Barca: “I think Barça can’t cope with the intensity. Technically, they have it all, they are great players tactically and technically. But they can’t cope with the intensity in top football.” Those words turned to be prophetic this evening.
Eintracht Frankfurt have one of the largest and most loyal following of fans in Germany and that was more evident than ever in the Catalan capital on Thursday. Reports claimed that up to 30,000 fans had descended upon Barcelona and it appeared like that in the Camp Nou.
The stadium appeared to be half-filled by those clad in Frankfurt’s white shirts, roaring their team on with each goal being met with a deafening roar by their huge following. Such was Barca fans discontent with the number of visiting fans – their main ultras groups left the stadium en mass for the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Barcelona have not lost a match in La Ligs since 3 December and have risen to second in the standings, after Xavi inherited a team in mid-table. They were instilled as favourites for the Europa League title after dropping out of the Champions League, but the reality has worked out somewhat differently.
This two-legged tie against Frankfurt, who languish in ninth place in the Bundesliga, was a reality check. Barca were thoroughly outplayed in both legs – they were hugely fortunate to draw 1-1 in Germany – and were outclassed at home. This shows that Barca are still some way short of Europe’s elite teams and while things are on the up under Xavi, there is a very long way to go.
He was not the obvious star of the night, but Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp’s calm and assured performance was a superb story of redemption. Over five years ago, he was the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper who conceded six goals in Barca’s famous ‘remontada’ in the Champions League Round of 16 tie.
That night had no fault or blame attached whatsoever on Trapp, but it was a painful night in his career and was the sort of experience that many players would struggle to properly recover from. Trapp has established himself as Frankfurt’s number one in the years since and was faultless and entirely commanding upon his first return to the Camp Nou since that evening.
Camp Nou no fortress
Barcelona’s recent home record in European competition has been absolutely dreadful and the Camp Nou is no longer the fortress for visitors that it was in previous years.
The Blaugrana were humbled by Juventus (0-3) and Paris Saint-Germain (1-4) at the end of last season’s Champions League, while their group stage saw a three-goal home reverse against Bayern Munich. They did edge out Dynamo Kiev 1-0, thanks to an own goal, before being held by Benfica in a scoreless draw – which ultimately helped oversee Barca’s group stage elimination.
The record has not improved in the Europa League, with Thursday’s clash preceded by two underwhelming draws against Napoli and Galatasaray respectively. Barca won the respective away legs to seal their progress in the competition to the quarter final stage.