CoachAdi Hütter: “I can live with the point very well. Leipzig played very well in the first half, we didn't do a lot well and we weren't able to provide relief. In the second half, Leipzig also had their chances, but I had the feeling that with a little luck we could have won. But that would not have been deserved. We fought for over 90 minutes and are happy to take the point with us."
Hutter's starting eleven displayed an apparent plan: put every defensive body you can on the pitch and hope to break through. With Erik Durm and Almamy Toure out due to injuries, and Martin Hinteregger a late scratch due to a thigh bruise, Hutter threw everything at defense to open the game, and it was a wise move. With Hasebe slotted at right back at the start, Rode filled in to the midfield. The lineup made it difficult to create an attack, but it also allowed for Rode to roam free and create an unexpected pressure from all over the attacking third. Adding Rode helped Hasebe sit a little deeper than usual, and the back line of N'Dicka, Ilsanker and Tuta held shape. With Hasebe defending the right wing, Kamada was slotting outside to try to push the ball down the field. The plan worked but put Kamada in a difficult matchup against Marcel Halstenberg, and it was one that Kamada wasn't winning. “That sometimes didn't work at all,” said the trainer about the experiment with Kamada. But Hütter explicitly protected the 24-year-old and made himself responsible: “That is more my fault and not Daichi Kamada's.” Acting like a mashup of a 3-4-2-1, a 4-2-3-1, and a 5-4-1, it kept Leipzig's combinations at bay in the middle and threw them off balance constantly.
The First half went to Leipzig
The first half showed Leipzig as definitely the more dangerous team. Eintracht couldn't build anything in the form of attack, and Leipzig's pressure was overwhelming. Even though Leipzig was the better team, they also couldn't break through the defense. It started from the opening kick. Tuta turned the ball over :02 in the the game on his first touch. Only seconds later, Kamada fell on a turn and gave the ball back to Leipzig on the left wing at the :17 mark. Luckily, both times Trapp was on point, gobbling up passes that seemed more dangerous than they actually where. Rode, Hasebe, and Sow did a tremendous job chasing down balls and making it very hard for Leipzig to build anything from the midfield. No matter how many times Leipzig won the ball back in their attacking third, they ran into a brick wall, with Sow and Rode chasing all over the field. The right side Frankfurts defense looked to be under serious trouble for much of the first half, and Justin Kluivert was causing lots of problems. Without his usual defensive support from Erik Durm, Tuta spent lots of time on Kluivert Island. But Tuta was up to the task, and for the entirety of the first half consistently turned him away. When an unfortunate bounce led to a Kluivert breakaway 6:09 into the game, Trapp turned him away with a tremendous kick save. Outside of one nice run of play and an excellent combination between Younes and Filip Kostic at the 11:00 mark in the first half, Eintracht never posed a threat.
Emil Forsberg's chance around the 17:00 off of a set piece was Die Roten Bullen's second biggest threat, and if it wasn't for a heads up play by Evan N'Dicka catching him offside, Alexander Sørloth would have put Leipzig up 1-0 off the rebound. Chances for both teams where hard to come by, as Eintracht managed just one shot (0 on target) in the first 45 minutes of play. Leipzig managed to pop off on four shots, 3 of which where on target, but Trapp was on point on each of them. Leipzig had a narrow margin in Possession, and challenge percentage, but their defense was making it hard for Eintracht to get the ball out of the midfield. Ilsanker was the star of the show for Die Adler. The oft maligned CB played with fire and intensity, and his two legged tackle on Joseph Paulson stopped a key attack late in the first 45. Ilsanker played with his hair on fire, and made several diving tackles inside the box to turn back Red Bull counter attacks. Both teams had one excellent chance that they didn't capitalize on. Kamada sent a 10 yard attempt wide right in Eintracht's only attempt of the half. It was one that showed a lack of composure and concentration, and could have easily put Eintracht up 1-0.
The Second Half was a much different story.
This run of play however, saw Eintracht start to make adjustments. Sow, Kamada, and Rode all began to rotate through the midfield, seeing each make a run down the right side, and with the right flank now a threat, the middle began to open up. Younes was finally getting the ball in space to operate, and Die Adler looked far the more dangerous between the two. Eintracht won back to back corners off balls played to Silva on the run. Younes finally got a shot on target with an awkward back heel attempt off a cross from Kostic.
Barkok began filling the RWB position, giving Tuta much needed support and also giving Halstenberg a threat to finally have to cover consistently. Poulson had one more rocket attempt from just inside the 18 yard box, which luckily fell right into Kevin Trapp's lap. An Emil Forsberg interception and missed tackle at the midfield line by Sow led to another counter attacking opportunity: a low left footed blast by Christopher Nkunku to the near post. Trapp was positioned perfect and turned the shot away with ease yet again. A knee to the back forced Ragnar Ache to sub in for Kamada, and Eintracht immediately found their first counterattacking opportunity of the game. Rode blasted a volley downfield that hit Kostic in perfect stride. Eintracht had a 3 v. 2 break, and Kostic put the ball just off the mark to a streaking Jovic who didn't handle it clean and drilled a left footer wide left. It was their best opportunity of the game, and Jovic had a clear path to the goal. Jovic looked a little surprised to get the ball, and took a poor first touch before rushing off his shot. He had time, and if he collected himself that's one he puts away 9/10 times.
As time wore down, you could tell two gassed teams where taking their best punches, completely unable to land that knockout blow. Barkok and Kostic both found the ball in space on the wings, only unable to connect on the cross several times. Ache and Jovic looked a bit off, unable to find the ball. Julian Nagelsmann must have sensed it too, because at the 85:00 he subbed in Tyler Adams for Emil Forsberg and dropped him deep. With their playmaker gone from the middle of the field, Leipzig seemed resigned to park the bus and play the ball deep down the left side. The game began to resemble a Tennis match, with vollies and deep balls played back and forth, fouls and unforced errors. You can't help but think that Leipzig have to feel they held on to a draw, despite the comments coming out of the locker room after the game. Eintracht was the most dangerous team over the final 20 minutes of play, but just couldn't connect on the key pass that would lead to a goal. While they were outshot 14-5, the five Eintracht chances where all quality chances they just couldn't put away. As the final whistle blew, you had to sense the Red Bulls were breathing both frustration and relief.
Ilsanker loves to play against his former club:
Stefan Ilsanker was simply brilliant. He was making diving tackles, winning aerial duels, turning passes, shots and dribblers away. It was his best performance of the season, and one of his best in an Eintracht uniform.
Tuta and N'Dicka's emergence continues:
While Tuta had the unenviable job of holding down the right side mostly by himself against a very talented player in Justin Kluivert, he held his own. He wasn't perfect, and he got beat a couple of times, but Tuta continued to show himself as getting better every week. N'Dicka was awesome. He was turning away Leipzig attacks with ease, and without him and Ilsanker defending with the tenacity that they did, this would have been a very different game.
Hasebe's initiating was greatly missed:
One of the reason Eintracht couldn't get anything built was there was too much congestion often times in the middle, and it found Hasebe often trying to make plays on the run. Eintracht's attack is much more fluid when Hasebe is at the helm, getting the ball in open space and spraying it up ahead to Kostic, Younes, or Kamada. The formation didn't help him any, but Leipzig did a good job taking this away until later in the game when Hutter balanced out the lineup and moved Kamada back inside.
Erik Durm's importance on the right flank:
If you needed any evidence of just how good Durm has been on the right flank, just go watch all the times Tuta was left completely unprotected in this game. Durm has limitations, but he's always where he's supposed to be, is a solid defender, and helps balance out the formation. He was largely missed yesterday.
Jovic is visibly frustrated:
Jovic was extremely animated on every mistake. Pointing, throwing his hands up, and it really showed in his effort off the ball. Jovic looks slightly lost, very frustrated, and flat. The one chance he got was a great one, but he didn't seem to expect the ball and rushed his shot. He hasn't had a good performance in a few weeks and maybe the pressure is starting to get to him.
The next few weeks are huge for Champions League positioning. With Eintracht only 2 points ahead of Dortmund for the final Champions League spot the next two weeks look like this:
Eintracht controls their own destiny, but needs a win at a minimum next week, and needs to pull points off of Dortmund on Matchday 27 to maintain their position. Of the 4 teams left fighting for Champions League spots, Eintracht has one of the more difficult schedules. The next two weeks will tell if they have enough left in the tank to finish off this run. Getting Hinti and Durm back would be a huge help, but Eintracht should have enough to complete the Champions League run and finish the season in the top 4.