With Frankfurt possessing a keen defensive eye, and the environment being as rowdy as it was, Barca didn’t get off to a lighting quick start.
Instead, there was a lot of posturing by the Blaugrana. There wasn’t a lot of risks being taken in the attack, and the defense mainly stayed away from their aggressive nature against the physical German side.
There was however, one notable chance from Barca in the early minutes. Ferran Torres found the ball at his feet in the middle of the pitch, in Frankfurt’s final third. He then unleashed a powerful long shot from 30 yards, that had some bit on it.
But the shot was brilliantly saved by Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.
However, because of the slow start, Barca ran into some trouble early on in the first half.
Barca’s slow start
Barca found themselves on the counterattack, and Frankfurt almost made Barca pay. Djibril Sow was presented with a golden opportunity to give the home side a one-nil lead, and send the Waldstadion into a frenzy.
But the midfielder sent the sitter wide of the net, gifting Barca a sigh of relief.
Time went by before we were met with our next notable event of the first half. But this time, it didn’t involve a goal, a booking, or a penalty. Instead, it was an injury that stole the show, but in a bad way for Barca.
A concerning injury blow to Barca
Gerard Pique — who has headlined the backline in fantastic fashion over the last month and a half — re-aggravated his apparent groin injury that’s been nagging at him for months now.
He’s played through the pain up until this point. But in the 23rd minute, Pique asked to be subbed off as he couldn’t manage through the pain any longer.
The Spaniard was replaced by Clement Lenglet, and we moved along with the action. Which ramped up again just before halftime, as Sergio Busquets was whistled for a penalty.
However, VAR stepped in, and corrected the decision made by the referee.
With that in the books, we slowly drifted towards halftime with the score still remaining 0-0.
Barca’s performance hadn’t been sharp, and it reflected on the scoreline. Luckily for them though, there was another half set to be played, which gave Barca a good chance to correct the mishaps they put on the pitch in the first half.
Although, once the second half began, it was made clear that the 15 allotted minutes weren’t enough for Barca to work through their kinks.
After a tiresome first half, once that included a good amount of physicality and good defensive work from both sides, the second half began.
This match painfully needed a big moment to brighten the fixture up, it didn’t matter whether it came from the Spanish or German side.
Just three minutes into the second half though, Frankfurt provided the spark. After a scramble session resulting from a corner kick, Ansgar Knauff delivered the spectacular.
He sent a beautiful shot from just inside 25 yards or so, and put it into the right side of the net.
The Waldstadion went wild, as the home side finally presented a moment of brilliance.
Barca was finally reaping from what they sowed in the first half. Bad defending, poor decisions in the midfield, it was all coming back to haunt them at a very bad time.
With loud chants ringing throughout the Waldstadion, it appeared Barca was on the verge of cracking. But after nearly 20 minutes of idle action, Barca found some rays of hope in the form of two players that have found top form under Xavi Hernandez.
Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie De Jong both made their first appearances 62 minutes into the match. The two European stars have been cooking with grease recently, and Barca were hoping they’d be able to do so once again.
Dembele and De Jong strike
6 minutes later, De Jong and Dembele cooked. The end result from their actions? A game leveling goal that sent a calming essence to Barca fans and the rest of the squad.
Dembele dribbled his way into Frankfurt’s middle final third. He then found De Jong, who then sent a short dink of a pass to Torres on the inside edge of Frankfurt’s penalty area.
Torres then gave a pass back to De Jong. De Jong then slipped a pass right back to Torres. Who then took one touch, and slotted a right footed shot home.
Torres’ goal gave Barca the tally they’d been desperately hunting for.
Now, with a 1-1 score, they were able to play a bit more freely, and find their game without accepting too much caution. This allowed the team to establish the patient, possession based tactical facet they’ve been so successful at using over their recent run of form.
It frustrated Frankfurt, and only limited their moments of attack to the counterattack. A tactic that ultimately didn’t work out for Frankfurt. As their final tally on the scoreline remained the same as when Ansgar scored his screamer.
There was one last moment of anxiety for Frankfurt though. 78 minutes in, Frankfurst defender Tuta was sent off with a red card. This gave Barca a great opportunity to grab a second goal before next week’s second leg.
But in the end, Barca were unable to do so. With that, the match ended 1-1, with Barca feeling like winners ahead of their return leg next week at the Camp Nou.
This wasn’t a good match according to Barca standards.
There were too many moments of lousy defending, bad passing in the midfield, and poor link ups in the final third.
That’s why the match felt lethargic and lackadaisical from Barca’s point of view.
But with Torres’ goal, Barca can feel a little better about their chances of advancing.
The Camp Nou should set a fine stage for Barca’s opportunity to move on to the semifinals of the Europa League. But we’ll have to wait another week to see if the iconic meca of football can lift Barca once again.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match is on Sunday, away against Levante.
See you all then!