The Unexpected Bayern Munich Loss- Five minutes into added time, contrasting senses of frustration and jubilation gripped the two sets of rival fans. It was in the game, as Eintracht Frankfurt number 11, Mijat Gacinovic, made a sprint towards the empty Bayern Munich goal with oozing confidence. The date was 19th May 2018. Barely any of the 70,000+ spectators at Berlin Olympiastadion would have expected such an upset in the 2017-18 DFB Pokal Final.
After all, Bayern had been once again crowned Bundesliga champions. That was rather recently in an emphatic manner. With 18 cup titles to their name, they were the clear favourites. This was over Eintracht heading into the summit clash, as the two teams wanted another title.
The Clash Of A Titan And An Under-Dog
Despite being the underdogs in the competition, Eintracht under former Bayern player and Croatian international Niko Kovac were no pushovers. In only his second full season, Kovac had already propelled them from relegation play-off to eighth in the Bundesliga table. Kovac’s Frankfurt was known for their defensive organisation. Also, a trademark of their play were the lethal counter-attacks. Both these weapons would come handy against a team that had no limits.
Having brought in the likes of Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic, things were looking good for them. The attackers would come in to join Ante Rebic upfront. There was no doubt that last year’s beaten finalists were seriously in pursuit of the elusive title. The brilliant trio had already managed to score an astonishing tally of 29 goals in all competitions.
It was this which was helping their coach earn praise and recognition from all quarters. He had also landed the coveted Bayern job the next season onwards. A victory in the Pokal Final would certainly be the cherry on top for Kovač personally.
The Brilliant Tactical Battle That Bayern Munich Were Fighting
Early into the season, Bayern had sacked Carlo Ancelotti after a false start and had brought in their treble-winning veteran coach, legendary German forward Jupp Heynckes for his fourth stint at the club. Under him, Bayern secured the Bundesliga championship with a huge 21-point lead despite losing their first-choice keeper Manuel Neuer to injury for most of the season.
In UCL though, luck deserted them in their semi-final tie against Real Madrid, as they committed a number of blunders that cost them, dear. Second-choice keeper Sven Ulreich, otherwise consistent, gifted a vital goal out of nowhere in the second leg. Anyway, the domestic double was still very much possible and would be a fitting tribute to Heynckes.
Bayern and Eintracht started with 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formations respectively. The early onslaughts were predictably mounted by the Bavarians but to no avail. The Eagles’ back three consisting of Salcedo, Abraham and da Costa withstood most of the attacks, and Bayern missed the target by tiny margins on the other occasions. In the 11th minute, against the run of play to be fair, Rebić slotted home from a recovery high up the pitch. Bayern failed to equalise before half-time despite their best efforts, although they did come close with slick passes, through balls, eye-catching runs and dribbles.
Things Not Going According To Plan For The German And European Champions
Early into the second half of the game, Bayern marksman Robert Lewandowski finally levelled the score. This was after some calm and patient build-up play. Gacinovic came in to replace Marius Wolf in the 60th minute of this key match. Bayern responded by fielding Corentin Tolisso to replace Thiago Alcantara just minutes later, hoping to earn yet another title.
Tolisso missed a pretty easy chance though soon after. It was partly his fault where he botched up the control while receiving the ball. The remaining credit went to a pin-point tackle. With the match entering the final stretch, Rebic restored the Eagles’ lead, banking upon a perfectly timed burst of sheer speed, acceleration and raw power to dart through Sule and Hummels, scoring from a really commendable through ball. It was Bayern once again, who found themselves chasing the game.
The Swinging Of The Tide In Eintracht Frankfurt’s Favour, Despite Bayern Munich Efforts
Deep into added time, Bayern Munich got two consecutive corners separated by a futile penalty shout. In order to aid their last-ditch efforts to equalise and help his team, Ulreich went into the Eintracht penalty-box. The second corner was well defended to say the least. In the ensuing counter-attack, Gacinovic found himself with an empty goal at his disposal. He was clinical, making no mistake to ensure their first cup title since 1988.
The 2017-18 DFB Pokal Final was a perfect demonstratration of the beautiful uncertainty in the game of football. Especially when considering knockout football, as various instances have shown the fans the same. Here the so-called minnows could have also ground out a favourable result if they succeeded in executing a sound defensive strategy. To add to that, the would have to boast of adequate lungs and legs for dogged pursuits and counter-attacks.
For Eintracht, without a doubt, this victory was doubly delightful. Now just had they finally got their hands on the trophy that eluded them last season, but also the had settled their long-standing score with Bayern. The score which was due since the Final of 2006. Bayern would surely have been disappointed. This was due to the fact that they were expected to win the treble. It was just a few months earlier. Kovac ended on a much happier note before joining the beaten finalists.