Frenkie de Jong made the difference off the bench as Barcelona rallied back from a goal down to hold Eintracht Frankfurt to a 1-1 draw.
Egged by a raucous home crowd at the Deutsche Bank Arena, Eintracht Frankfurt made a strong start to the game. But Barcelona dominated the possession for the most part, albeit without troubling Kevin Trapp much in the Eagles’ goal. In fact, the hosts created went the closest to scoring in the opening period, when Filip Kostic tested Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Eintracht Frankfurt deservedly broke the deadlock early in the second half, as Ansgar Knauff unleashed a fierce volley from the edge of the box after collecting the ball from a clearance. The hosts nearly doubled their advantage shortly after but were guilty of spurning some good chances.
But Barcelona assumed control of the proceedings around the hour mark and started pushing Eintracht Frankfurt back efficiently. And the Blaugrana finally found the back of the net midway through the second half, when substitutes Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele linked up beautifully before the former indulged in a give-and-go with Ferran Torres, who scored from close range.
The visitors were given the hope of clinching a comeback win late on when Tuta was sent off for a second bookable offence. But Barcelona could not make the numerical advantage count, leaving the quarter-final hanging in the balance heading into next week’s second leg. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Xavi Hernandez’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 6/10
Marc-Andre ter Stegen nearly gave away a goal in the first half when he made a meal of collecting an effort from Filip Kostic. But the German international was at hand to make four saves after conceding a worldie to Ansgar Knauff early in the second half.
Ronald Araujo: 6/10
Araujo was the obvious pick for the right-back slot, but he did not have it easy against a rampant Kostic. The Uruguayan international initially struggled to contain the Serbian international but was indomitable once he found his feet. He was not a factor moving forward, though.
Gerard Pique: N/A
Xavi: "Piqué's injury? He has been in pain for quite some time and today he has suffered. Hopefully it's not very serious." pic.twitter.com/ZT0mVCfPxC
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 7, 2022
Pique’s outing ended midway through the first half, as he picked up an injury following an awkward slip. The veteran defender had looked uneasy before his substitution, and Clement Lenglet stepped up after replacing him.
Eric Garcia: 7/10
Eric Garcia had to step up after Pique went off injured, and he did so superbly. While the youngster looked uncomfortable initially, he donned the leadership hat with aplomb, completing numerous vital clearances (five), while winning nearly all his contested duels. He was also precise with the ball at his feet, completing 94 per cent of his attempted passes.
Jordi Alba: 4/10
Alba has been one of Barcelona’s standout performers in recent months, but he endured a difficult outing against Eintracht Frankfurt. Ansgar Knauff troubled him a fair bit, while the veteran’s output in the final third was sub-par, to say the least. Alba also lost possession a staggering 29 times and will hope to bounce back from this blip on the weekend.
Pedri was not quite at his best on Thursday, as he looked lost at times in the middle of the park. The Spanish international did play a couple of key passes, but he lost the ball carelessly on a few occasions. However, he put in the hard yards off the ball, completing many important tackles and interceptions.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
Sergio Busquets was a calming presence in the Barcelona midfield in the face of the blistering counter-attacks that Eintracht Frankfurt looked to unleash. That said, the Barcelona captain was not as precise with the ball at his feet as he usually is, losing possession 20 times. But he completed several crucial tackles, including one inside the box on Rafael Santos Borre.
Gavi returned to the starting lineup in place of Frenkie de Jong but endured a difficult outing on Thursday. The teenage prodigy showed the fight and urgency that have become his typical traits but could not influence the proceedings as he would have liked. While the Spanish international slowly grew into the game, replacing him with de Jong was the correct decision by Xavi.
Adama Traore: 5/10
Traore was the Player to Watch in our preview, and he got the chance to make an impression on Thursday. But Xavi would not have been impressed by what he saw from the Spanish international, who showed a lot of endeavour but did not have the end product to make the difference. Xavi rightly took him off for Ousmane Dembele, who was an upgrade on Traore.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 4/10
Aubameyang produced the worst performance of his Barcelona stint thus far against Eintracht Frankfurt. The former Arsenal captain was sloppy on the ball while mustering just one shot in the game, which was off target. But judging by his displays thus far for Barcelona, Thursday’s showing should only be a blip.
Ferran Torres: 7/10
Ferran Torres has been involved in six goals in his last five games for Barcelona ? pic.twitter.com/Mpn5mBKvYw
— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 7, 2022
Torres was Barcelona’s only starting attacker who looked like he could make things happen. But with Aubameyang and Traore not at their best, the Spaniard had to wait till the game’s final half-hour to come alive. And he did so spectacularly, indulging in a marvellous give-and-go with Frenkie de Jong before scoring the equaliser from close range.
Clement Lenglet: 6.5/10
Lenglet might not have foreseen playing in the game, but he did reasonably well after replacing Pique midway through the first half. The Frenchman completed numerous interceptions (four) and clearances (two) to alleviate the Eintracht Frankfurt threat while winning nearly all his contested duels (5/6).
Frenkie de Jong: 7.5/10
3 – Frenkie de Jong has provided 3 assists in his last seven games for @FCBarcelona ??, just one less than in his previous 47 games in all competitions for the Catalonian side (4). Importance. pic.twitter.com/Rqwq0dmneE
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 7, 2022
Frenkie de Jong’s introduction helped Barcelona find a way past an erstwhile stubborn Eintracht Frankfurt rearguard. The Dutchman linked up beautifully with Ousmane Dembele before setting up Torres for the equaliser following a one-two with the Spaniard. He is on top of his game.
Ousmane Dembele: 7/10
Dembele was in his element after replacing Adama Traore and immediately brought on the precision in the deliveries that was lacking for the game’s first hour. The Frenchman linked up majestically with de Jong in the build-up to Torres’s goal and provided two key passes.
Many attacks against barca funnelled into the center behind a trailing Busquets, who several times, like Alba, angelled away from the Barca box, seeming to get out of the picture after being beaten. B’s many passes went nowhere. Without Dembele, Pedri, de Jong excitement up top, the B, Alba, Picque stuff has always looked basically incompetent for many of us. De Jong must be started (or Gavi) in Busquets place right now, to learn: they can play as well and won’t be beatCen at the back.