Football Features

Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Chelsea: Five things learned as Loftus-Cheek proves his dominance

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:16, 2 May 2019

Chelsea have the upper hand in their Europa League semi-final with Eintracht Frankfurt after leaving Germany with a 1-1 draw.

The Blues, now unbeaten for a record-breaking 16 consecutive Europa League matches, came from a goal down to share the spoils ahead of next week’s showdown at Stamford Bridge.

Luka Jovic, much-coveted by Europe’s elite clubs, put the Bundesliga outfit in front before Pedro scored that vital away goal. It could have even more for Chelsea who rued a few missed opportunities; that being said, they will feel confident of returning to another major European final.

For the Eagles, who have been this season’s surprise package in Europe alongside Champions League semi-finalist Ajax, they are facing an uphill struggle to continue defying the odds.

Before the next 90 minutes, which is sure to be a spectacle, here are five things we learned from this first ever encounter between the sides.

1. Drought over for Luka Jovic

Heading into this fixture, one name dominated the headlines. Luka Jovic, who recently made his loan from Benfica permanent, continues to be linked with European giants Barcelona and Real Madrid – as well as Chelsea.

And for very good reason. He’s been sensational this season having already bagged 17 goals across 29 Bundesliga outings. However, the Serbian marksman has been misfiring of late, even if he remains Eintracht’s biggest threat. A four-match goalless streak came to an end in the 23rd minute when he headed Die Adler in front.

It brought up his ninth goal in the Europa League, with only Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud managing more in the competition.

2. Frankfurt’s deadly duo strike again

Playing a huge role in the goal was Jovic’s compatriot Filip Kostic (himself on loan from Hamburg). This match happened to be their 40th together in an Eintracht shirt.

In the previous 39, they combined for eight goals: six of them scored by Jovic via Kostic and two scored by Kostic via Jovic. Thursday evening would see goal number nine.

And you can’t say the warning signs weren’t there for Chelsea – if we just focus on the Europa League this season, no duo combined for more chances for one another – before Thursday evening’s showdown, it stood at 12.

3. Loftus-Cheek impresses again

A year ago, Loftus-Cheek would have contemplated another season on loan away from Stamford Bridge but instead he’s playing a key role in their Europa League quest.

The homegrown central midfielder is entering the phase of his career where he can no longer be considered a promising talent. He’s shown enough times across the last few months he’s got what it takes to thrive in Chelsea’s midfield with Thursday being the latest example.

Aside from providing the assist for Pedro, which preserved Chelsea’s unique record of not trailing at half-time, he completed 39 of his 45 attempted passes while producing nine take-ons, equalling the most in a European knockout game this season – a feat he shares with a certain Lionel Messi.

The one thing he was lacking on Thursday was good finishing, but that should not take away from arguably his best-ever showing in a Chelsea ahirt.

4. Sarri equals Klopp

This season’s Europa League is Chelsea’s only shot at silverware (and potentially their only entry into the 2019/20 Champions League).

If they are to repeat the heroics of 2013, when under Rafael Benitez they claimed the prize at Benfica’s expense, then Sarri (who succeeded Benitez at Napoli) will claim his first major honour as manager.

The former banker has been on his A-Game in Europe; Thursday’s result saw him stretch his unbeaten run in the Europa League to 14 matches, which sees him match a fellow Premier League manager in the competition since it was rebranded in 2009/10.

Jurgen Klopp, between October 2010 and April 2016 as manager of Borussia Dortmund and then Liverpool, went 14 games without tasting defeat. Sarri can go one better next Thursday.

The win also saw Chelsea break Atletico Madrid’s record for most consecutive games unbeaten in the competition, taking their current run to 16.

Chelsea’s last Europa League defeat came in the second leg of their 2013 quarter-final to Rubin Kazan, though it was not enough to knock the Blues out en route to winning the competition.

5. Eintracht’s home comforts keep them in with a chance

For large swathes of this game, Chelsea were the better side and had enough chances to return to London with a sizeable advantage. But in the end, they became yet another side who failed to put Eintracht on the back foot at the impressive Waldstadion.

In front of their incredibly passionate support at the Commerzbank-Arena, the Eagles have played 11 Europa League matches – excluding play-offs – winning eight times and drawing on three occasions.

But what is most impressive is the fact that in these games, they haven’t trailed for a single minute.