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Mainz 2-2 Eintracht Frankfurt: Germans bound to draw in dress rehearsal for Europa League final against Rangers

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OLIVER Glasner and his Eintracht Frankfurt players had a definite Eurovision before their final Bundesliga game of the season against Mainz this afternoon.

Glasner said earlier this week that he would use the league meeting with their local rivals at the MEWA Arena as a dress rehearsal for the Europa League final against Rangers in Sevilla on Wednesday night and he was true to his word.

The Deutsche Bank Park side were in 12th place in the table heading into the encounter, so they had nothing to play for but pride. Nevertheless, the strongest team available to his coach took to the pitch before kick-off.

But long before the annual carnival of kitsch kicked off in Turin last night, Eintracht showed they weren’t entirely on song ahead of their biggest game of modern times.

Martin Hinteregger, their Austrian centre-half and vice-captain, is out injured for the remainder of the season and Jesper Lindstrom, their Danish winger who is battling to be fit next week, was absent from the starting XI.

Yet there was only one change to the side that beat West Ham 1-0 last week to claim a 3-1 aggregate victory over their Premier League rivals in the Europa League semi-finals. .

Almamy Touré, their Mali full-back, entered on the right side of the three-man defense and Tutu, their Brazilian centre-back, took over from Hinteregger in the middle.

But the Sebastian Rode-trained pre-match skipper did little to galvanize the new line-up. Moussa Niakhate and his teammates quickly took full control of proceedings and exerted sustained pressure on the visitors who made a series of poor decisions and careless errors and at times appeared in disarray.

The 10th-minute opener was well within the course of play. Evan Ndicka did well to clear an Anton Stach shot off his line. The ball, however, fell on Marcus Ingavartsen who spun around and slammed into the roof of the net much to the delight of the ultras’ red wall in the safe position behind goal.

The Rangers representative at the game will no doubt inform Giovanni van Bronckhorst that he is taking a positive approach to the upcoming duel at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium and is urging Ryan Kent, Scott Wright and Joe Aribo to attack from the start after witnessing such a shaky start from Eintracht. Their defense is far from watertight.

Glasner favors a 3-4-2-1 formation with lone striker Rafael Borre supported by Jens Petter Hauge and Daichi Kamada. But the trio received hardly any serve in the first 20 minutes and Finn Dahmen in the home goal went untested.

Scoring early, however, forced Bo Svenssons’ side to sit back and protect their lead and Glasners’ side took full advantage. They equalized in the 26th minute after receiving a free kick in the Mainz half. Borre had the slightest touch on Filip Kostic’s delivery. Dahmen pushed the header away only for Tuta to pounce on the rebound.

The equalizer stunned the home support into silence and lifted the away team. They took the lead nine minutes later when Ansgar Knauff made a powerful run up the field, passed three players and fed Borre in front of him. The striker has slotted into the bottom left corner to take his tally for the 2021/22 campaign to 11.

Eintrachts’ domestic form this season has been as erratic as their performances in continental competition have been surprising. But their response in the first 45 minutes of the derby was impressive and showcased both the quality and the mental toughness they possess within their ranks.

Glasner took Rode off early in the second half and put Kristijan Jakic in central midfield. The change may have resulted in the goal they conceded just four minutes after play resumed. They shut down and allowed Stach to drop in from the right and into Ingvartsen in the penalty area. The Dane turned an early shot past Kevin Trapp from a tight angle.

Aaron struck inside the right post for Mainz and Eintracht enforcer Kostic saw a strike ruled out for offside by referee Martin Petersen afterwards.

Glasner made a triple substitution on the hour mark. Ajdin Hrustic, Makoto Hasebe and Stefan Ilsanker came on for Hauge, Touré and Tuta respectively. The Austrian coach will be delighted to have given so many members of his team playing time ahead of the final. However, his anger was evident when Jonathan Burkhart passed Trapp with 20 minutes remaining.

The goal, however, did not hold. Petersen checked a replay of the incident on a pitchside monitor and judged that the goalscorer had handled the build-up.

A draw was probably a fair result at the end of the 90 minutes. Perhaps the Eintrachts players had half an eye on the biggest challenge that awaits them in Andalucia next week. But they will have to realize much better themselves, especially in defense, to overcome Rangers and lift the second European trophy in their history.

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