Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Chelsea: Pedro scores vital away goal in Europa League semi-final
Luka Jovic scored the opener for Eintracht Frankfurt to set up finely-poised second leg
Last Updated: 03/05/19 6:33am
Pedro scored a vital away goal for Chelsea in their Europa League semi-final first leg 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt.
There was a raucous atmosphere ahead of kick-off and the home fans were rewarded when Luka Jovic headed home in the 23rd minute.
But Chelsea soon found their rhythm and Pedro made it count with the equaliser - and an away goal - as he fired home on the stroke of half-time.
Chelsea should have added another in the second half, with David Luiz hitting the crossbar with a free-kick, but the tie remains finely-poised for next Thursday's second leg at Stamford Bridge.
How Chelsea drew in Germany
Frankfurt were the better side in the opening exchanges and captain David Abraham could have put the hosts ahead in the 21st minute after Fliip Kostic's free kick was flicked on into his path, but he lifted his shot over the crossbar.
Eintracht Frankfurt: Trapp (7), Hinteregger (7), Abraham (7), Hasebe (6), Falette (6), Fernandes (6), Rode (7), Da Costa (7), Jovic (6), Kostic (7), Gacinovic (6).
Subs used: Paciencia (6), Willems (n/a).
Chelsea: Kepa (6), Azpilicueta (7), Luiz (7), Christensen (6), Emerson (6), Kante (7), Jorginho (7), Loftus-Cheek (8), Willian (6), Giroud (6), Pedro (7).
Subs used: Hazard (6), Kovacic (n/a).
Man of the match: Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Two minutes later though, Frankfurt had their opener. Some poor control from Chelsea in midfield allowed the hosts to set Kostic away down the left-hand side. He then fired in a cross and Jovic - who had got in between two Chelsea defenders - guided it home with a low header for his 26th goal of the season.
This seemed to jolt Chelsea and they went close not long after as Pedro fired a volley towards goal, which just whistled past the post, before Ruben Loftus-Cheek darted across the top of the box before shooting wide.
Eintracht Frankfurt made two changes with Ante Rebic and Jonathan de Guzman replaced with Simon Falette and Mijat Gacinovic. Chelsea made five changes with Eden Hazard starting on the bench, along with Marcos Alonso, Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain while Antonio Rudiger is injured. Andreas Christensen, Emerson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Olivier Giroud and Pedro came into the XI.
The two were involved again on the stroke of half time as Chelsea nabbed their equaliser. After Willian's initial corner had been cleared, Loftus-Cheek received the ball on the left of the area but with nowhere to go, he played the ball back to Pedro. Despite a number of players closing in, the Spaniard showed great feet and fired the ball into the bottom corner.
Chelsea continued on the front foot for the second half and twice went close before the hour mark. After a superb, driving run and a one-two with Pedro, Loftus-Cheek lifted a shot just over the crossbar before a David Luiz free kick rattled the upright. He managed to lift the ball over the wall but the fingertips of Kevin Trapp sent the effort clattering onto the bar.
Eden Hazard was introduced not long after and was involved in two fine Chelsea chances around the 75-minute mark. Loftus-Cheek shot straight at Trapp, who pushed it away, and Hazard was only able to blaze the rebound over. He then whipped a superb free kick into the area, but Luiz also sent his bullet header into the hands of the goalkeeper.
Despite looking tired for much of the second half, Frankfurt rallied in the final ten minutes and twice could have nabbed the winner. Another wonderful cross from Danny da Costa just missed the run of Goncalo Paciencia before Abraham headed over the crossbar when unmarked, six yards out.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 16 Europa League games, a record in the competition since it was rebranded in 2009-10.
- Eintracht Frankfurt have played 11 Europa League games at the Commerzbank-Arena, winning eight and drawing three. They haven't been behind for a single minute in those games.
- Pedro has been directly involved in seven goals in his last six starts for Chelsea in the Europa League (4 goals, 3 assists).
- Frankfurt's Luka Jovic scored his ninth goal in this season's Europa League, only Olivier Giroud (10) has scored more.
The Debate: 'Chelsea can fancy themselves at home'
Emma Hayes: "I think the team can fancy themselves at home knowing they have produced performances in this competition throughout the season.
"I don't think it's easy to go to Frankfurt and come away with a convincing result and I think 1-1 is reflective of the game, even though I felt that in the second half, Chelsea had opportunities to win the game. Late on, Frankfurt rallied and equally had the chance to take the lead. At 1-1, it's poised but Chelsea can fancy their chances at home.
"I think most people, looking at the balance of play, would argue that both English clubs are likely to make it [to the final], although it is never as straight forward as that. I think Arsenal's third goal cushion makes the difference for them but at 1-1 for Chelsea, perhaps there is a little bit more work to do."
Man of the match - Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Loftus-Cheek was preferred to Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley in the middle of the park and it proved a good choice. The 23-year-old was a pillar of strength and tenacity in the Chelsea midfield, making driving forward runs that Frankfurt just could not stop.
He had a few good chances to boot and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with a goal or an assist. He was understandably disappointed to be substituted in the 82nd minute but has put himself in pole position for a starting role in the last few games of the season.
Chelsea host Watford on Sunday in the Premier League (kick-off at 2pm) before next week's return leg at Stamford Bridge. They then travel to Leicester on the final day of the season on Sunday, 12 May. Eintracht Frankfurt travel to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Sunday before coming to London on Thursday.
When is the Europa League final?
The Europa League final, the 10th in its current format and 48th overall of Europe's second-tier competition, will take place on Wednesday, May 29.
Kick-off is at 8pm (BST), 9pm (CEST).