The 2017/18 DFB-Pokal final was played on May 19th at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, and the teams that took to the pitch to face each other and do battle for the trophy were Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.
The way the Bavarians have been dominating German football for many years now is very impressive. They’ve recently been confirmed as the Bundesliga champions again, and after the disappointment of going out of the Champions League in the semi-final at the hands of Real Madrid, the 73-year-old manager Jupp Heynckess was determined to retire with another trophy on his shelf.
Eintracht manager Niko Kovač has been confirmed as Heynckess’ successor in the Allianz Arena dugout, and that confirmation seems to have caused an upset in the ranks at Frankfurt. At one point they were on course to qualify for next season’s Champions League, but they’ve ended up out of a place in Europe altogether – unless they could win the Cup. So it was a chance for them not only to make it into Europa League, but also to see their manager off to new challenges with a trophy. Not to mention to get revenge on the Bavarians for stealing him.
There weren’t any surprises in the line-up Heynckess chose. In front of Sven Ulreich in goal, Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Süle, Mats Hummels and David Alaba formed the defence. Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara sat deeper as the midfield duo in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with James Rodriguez in the No. 10 role flanked by Franck Ribery on the left and Thomas Müller on the right. Robert Lewandowski was the man furthest up.
Kovač however went with a slightly more flexible 3-5-2 formation. Lukas Hradecky was in goal. Carlos Salcedo, Makoto Hasebe and David Abraham represented a line of three at the back, while wing-backs Jetro Willems and Danny da Costa were quick to add to their numbers, changing the shape to a back five when need arose.
Jonathan de Guzman, Omar Mascarell and Marius Wolf in midfield supported Kevin Prince Boateng and Ante Rebić in attack.
The First Half – An Early Shock
Both teams started the game with a high defensive line, and the play was congested in the middle for a while. Bayern’s quality, however, got them in behind the opposition lines a few times early on, but they couldn’t capitalize.
After seven minutes, Lewandowski and Müller played a nice one-two and the run of Lewandowski was blocked of by Salcedo who got booked for his effort. The free-kick, around 20 yards from the goal in a position favourable for a right-footed shooter, was taken by Lewandowski himself. His shot went over the wall and off the underside of the bar. Very, very close.
But it was Bayern’s high line that would prove costly first. Minute 11 was running when James got dispossessed by Rebić. The ball fell for Boateng who immediately sent Rebić running past Süle and towards the goal. Hummels tried to get across and put in a tackle but couldn’t get there in time to prevent Rebić from taking a shot from the edge of the box, right into the near bottom corner. Ulreich at a full stretch couldn’t do anything about it and Eintracht were in the lead.
As expected, Bayern then went forward with more determination but try as they would, an equalizer couldn’t be found. Müller headed a great cross from James wide, and then himself directed a cross towards the run of Kimmich, but the right-back couldn’t get there in time. Ribery and Lewandowski combined and created a chance, but the Pole’s chip over the ‘keeper went wide. Lewandowski then took another free-kick, this time from around 30 yards, but it went considerably wide.
But Eintracht weren’t going to let Bayern have it all their own way. They found means to threaten on the counterattack more than once. Rebić, who was Bayern’s worst nightmare in this game, went one-on-one with Süle on the left, switched the ball inside onto his right foot for a shot, but then he saw De Guzman running completely unmarked into the middle of the box, so he squared it for him, but the former Swansea midfielder slipped at a crucial moment. A brilliant step forward by Hummels caught Boateng offside just as it looked the Eintracht striker would get free to run at the goal. Da Costa’s cross found Wolf unmarked in the box but Wolf’s header went far from the target.
Bayern had one more chance to get level before halftime as James’s cross from a free-kick was met by the head of Javi Martinez, but the header was an easy catch for Hradecky.
The Second Half – A Late Shock
Just two minutes after the restart, Willems aimed a cross towards Boateng and the striker’s header was an unpleasant one for Ulreich, but the Bayern ‘keeper dealt with it nevertheless.
But from that moment on, Bayern charged forward with even more determination than before. Their reward came in the 53rd minute. Hummels is usually the centre-back tasked with occasionally taking the ball forward and acting almost as an attacking midfielder, but this time Süle took it upon himself. He came near the box and threaded a pass to the right wing where Kimmich was making his run. Kimmich showed great vision as he pulled it back for the incoming unmarked Lewandowski. His shot, slightly deflected off the foot of Mascarell who went for a last-ditch tackle, caught Hradecky on the wrong foot and the score was level.
A period of complete domination by Bayern followed as the Bavarians looked to turn the game around completely. Sensing he needed to change something, Kovač took out Wolf and sent in Mijat Gaćinović on the hour.
The change brought the game back into balance. Gaćinović’s movement and ability to read the game proved crucial for Eintracht as they started breaking up Bayern’s attacks with more frequency. In fact, Gaćinović’s first contact with the ball was a smart interception that enabled him to go forward and find Boateng just outside the box. Boateng went for a spectacular volley but missed the target.
As Eintracht’s game became more composed, so Bayern’s got sloppy at this point. Misplaced passes, miscommunication, wrong timing, all those unwanted occurrences became frequent. Heynkcess sensed he needed to act, and after 63 minutes Thiago left the pitch and made way for Corentin Tolisso.
The game picked up pace and got exciting as both teams went to find the second goal.
At one end, a De Guzman corner was cleared by Martinez but only as far as Mascarell whose thunder-volley went straight at Ulreich. Kimmich and Müller combined well at the other end to set Tolisso up for a great chance, but a brilliant tackle inside the box by Hasebe thwarted their efforts. Then Müller made way for Kingsley Coman as Heynckess tried to add more pace to his attack.
At this point, Bayern were slowly regaining control. A foul by Mascarell on Alaba on the very edge of the box in the 72nd minute gave Lewandowski another chance from a favourable position, but his shot let him down again.
Though Rebić and Boateng up front were still proving capable to cause Bayern trouble, the legs in midfield were getting tired and with 15 minutes remaining, Kovač took out De Guzman and brought on Marco Russ.
As the Bavarians’ domination continued, Lewandowski wasted a good combination between Ribery and James as he failed to direct the Colombian’s cross on target, and a good corner by Kimmich was headed onto the bar by Hummels. But from that corner, Rebić gave the onlookers a glimpse of what was to follow as Boateng’s pass got him in a one-on-two situation just outside of Bayern’s box and his shot towards the far corner went just wide.
In the 82nd minute, however, Rebić wasn’t as generous to his opponents. James lost the ball again, this time under pressure from Boateng and da Costa. The wing-back then released Rebić upfront with a superb pass, and the attacker chipped it over Ulreich to regain the lead for Eintracht. Bayern players complained about a handball from Boateng preceding the goal as the ball touched Boateng’s arm, but after consulting the VAR system, referee Felix Zwayer allowed the goal to stand.
Bayern then attacked with everything they had, but such an approach only opened up more space for the dangerous counterattacks of Eintracht. With three minutes left to play, Coman was forced to stop one such move by bringing Boateng down, for which he was booked. Then Heynkess threw his last card in by replacing Ribery with Sandro Wagner. At the same time, double-scorer Rebić made way for Sebastien Haller.
A minute into the stoppage time, Kimmich had a fantastic chance to level the score once more, but he couldn’t capitalize from being unmarked in the box when an accurate corner by James found his head.
A minute and another corner later, some more controversy as Boateng tried to clear the box and made contact with the foot of Martinez. The Spaniard went down immediately and his teammates screamed for a penalty. The VAR was called into action again, but instead of a penalty, another corner was given to Bayern.
That corner, taken at the very stroke of time, lead to an incredible finish.
With nothing to lose, Ulreich joined his teammates in Eintracht’s box. The corner was cleared, Gaćinović beat Alaba to the ball and found himself running 70 yards towards the gaping Bayern goal, finishing the run with a cool shot into the empty net.
The goal caused some crowd disturbances as the Eintrach players and fans celebrated together.
Clearly lacking individual quality when compared to Bayern, Eintracht players put in a huge shift and won the trophy deservedly. They were disciplined and patient throughout, and they found ways to exploit any weakness in this superb Bayern team they could find.
Niko Kovač therefore gets to leave Frankfurt with the DFB-Pokal as a consolation as he makes his way into Bayern’s dugout for the next season.
Jupp Heynckess, a great managerial name of the modern game, leaves the stage with only the Bundesliga trophy in his last season, which is a big disappointment for the usual standards of Bayern Munich.
BAYERN MUNICH: Ulreich 7, Kimmich 7, Alaba 7, Süle 7, Hummels 7.5, Martinez 6, James 6.5, Thiago 7.5 (64’ Tolisso 6.5), Müller 7 (70’ Coman 6.5), Ribery 8 (87’ Wagner N/A), Lewandowski 6.5.
EINTRACHT FRANKFURT: Hradecky 7, Salcedo 7.5, Hasebe 8, Abraham 7.5, Da Costa 7.5, Willems 7.5, de Guzman 6.5 (74’ Russ 6.5), Wolf 7 (60’ Gaćinović 8), Mascarell 7.5, Rebić 8.5 (87’ Haller N/A), Boateng 7.5.
GOALS: Rebić 4’, 82’; Lewandowski 53’; Gaćinović 90+6’.
YELLOW CARDS: Salcedo 7’, Lewandowski 37’, Hasebe 45’, Willems 45’, Rebić 84’, Coman 86’, Gaćinović 90+7’.
RED CARDS: None.
REFEREE: Felix Zwayer.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!