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Kevin-Prince Boateng the catalyst

    • 248 posts
    January 31, 2018 12:21 pm IST
    It was short, but oh so sweet. For 19 hours following their 2-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday, Eintracht Frankfurt were second in the Bundesliga, with just Bayern Munich ahead of them. It wouldn’t last, of course, with Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke and the other riders in a sub-champion field still to play, but Die Adler were determined to make the most of their “one-night stand”, as sporting director Fredi Bobic put it after. Nike NFL Whitney Mercilus Navy Blue Jersey Youth Limited: #59 Houston Texans Home Vapor Untouchable “I said before the game,” Bobic continued, “that if we win, we have to take a picture and frame it.” Maybe, in a season where no credible challenger to Bayern has emerged – Jupp Heynckes’s side remain 16 points clear after their 5-2 win over Hoffenheim – that photo might quickly become superfluous. While Leverkusen and Schalke’s burgeoning resurrections under new coaches have been widely celebrated in rare seasons without the distraction of European competition, Niko Kovac has quietly compiled a very competitive side who, it appears after Friday’s win, have no intention of repeating last season’s mistakes. Eintracht needed to prove a point in this game, and they did just that. Last week’s win at Wolfsburg had been stylish and entertaining – even if the internet boiled the match down to Max Arnold’s mind-bending free-kick for the home side – but didn’t tell us much about them that we didn’t know. On the road, only Bayern have collected more points (22 to Eintracht’s 21), but conversely only the bottom three have taken fewer on home turf than Kovac’s side. This was a good start to redressing the balance. They had their luck too against Gladbach. Kevin-Prince Boateng, to some extent representative of Bobic and Kovac’s make-do-and-mend transfer policy, had a central role, tucking in the opener from the excellent Timothy Chandler’s cross and then conceding a second-half penalty, fairly unluckily, for a challenge on Lars Stindl. Boateng and company were reprieved when Thorgan Hazard, in his 100th Bundesliga appearance, rattled his kick off the crossbar. It felt pivotal, though. This post-winter break restart to the season is exactly what Eintracht needed to rebuff their doubters. After all, they were fourth at Christmas last year, only to plummet in the second half of the campaign. Even if they were clearly distracted by their run in the DfB Pokal, eventually losing the final to Borussia Dortmund after a gallant display, that couldn’t completely explain away Kovac’s team compiling the lowest point total of any team in 2016-17’s Rückrunde (13 in the last 17 games). Had Kovac carried that much into this campaign, Adrian Peterson Jersey then he would probably have been looking for a new job and Eintracht would have been looking more like Cologne than Cologne, the last few weeks’ improvement at Effzeh notwithstanding. Things didn’t look too clever at the beginning of the season, with one point taken from (and no goals scored in) the opening two games. Call 30-year-old Boateng what you want – an opportunist signing, a loose cannon who is working out for now, or a heaven-sent slice of luck – but after suddenly leaving Las Palmas and finding a space in Frankfurt after the pivotal Marco Fabián’s injury had left Eintracht in the mire, he has been a major catalyst for the upswing, involved and positive. It was his winner at Gladbach in the reverse fixture in the third game of the season that got the ball rolling for the team. What Eintracht have developed into since is something with the potential to be pretty special. Kovac employs a 3-5-2 with unlikely heroes all over the pitch, from the veteran Makoto Hasebe in the back three to wing-backs Marius Wolf – a standout this season – and the fit-again Chandler. Up front, the summer signing Sébastien Haller is steadily proving wrong those back home in France who doubted his pedigree. It’s a system shot through with dynamism and stamina. There are few harder-working teams in the Bundesliga, and young Luka Jovic’s neatly-finished clincher was the fifth time that Eintracht have scored Mike Piazza Youth jersey in the last five minutes of a game this season to decisive effect.
    • 1828 posts
    February 28, 2018 2:38 pm IST

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