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Fine Frankfurt side deal Barcelona bitter Europa League blow


Right from the off, the unprecedented abundance of white shirts in the Camp Nou did not bode well for Barcelona - and it didn’t take long for that ill omen to be borne out: in the fourth minute, Eric García gave away a cheap penalty and Filip Kostic made no mistake from the spot. So Barça essentially started the game 1-0 down, against the backdrop of a home support angry with the club for selling so many tickets to the visiting fans, who occupied the seats left free by season-ticket holders away enjoying their Easter holidays. The Camp Nou ‘singing stand’ even briefly staged a walk-out in protest. Rather than being roared on amid a pressure-cooker atmosphere, Barça found themselves in a stadium that sounded split down the middle and, frankly, weird.

And on the pitch, things turned out even worse. Eintracht Frankfurt confirmed that they’re a very fine side. Lining up in a 5-4-1, they sat and waited for Barça, before breaking at pace, in numbers and with some excellent football. Ousmane Dembélé was on his game, but he couldn’t do it all on his own. Rafael Borré made it 2-0 before the break, Kostic added a third in the second half, and Barça seemed to be flirting with a hiding until they produced a late reaction, pushing everyone forward. Sergio Busquets had a goal disallowed and scored another that stood, and in the 101st minute, with no time to even mount one more attack, Memphis Depay netted a penalty. Barça had saved face by lending some respectability to the scoreline, but it’s a result that takes the wind out of their sails. Their hearts were set on this trophy.

Despite everything, Barça almost turned it around

Put simply, Eintracht proved a very tough nut to crack, and things went wrong in the home team. García conceded a silly penalty; Gerard Piqué was badly missed at the back; Pedri played poorly, perhaps affected by the injury that forced him off at half time; and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed two chances at point-blank range, particularly one just before the break. And this all played out amid a strange atmosphere, thanks to the presence of so many Eintracht fans. To top things off, VAR didn’t work. Barça’s late push consisted of chucking balls into the mixer towards Luuk de Jong and Ronald Araújo, with Busquets waiting on the edge of the box to snap up loose balls. And the funny thing is that it almost worked. They were one disallowed goal away.