Barcelona crashed out of the Europa League quarter-finals with a 3-2 defeat at home to Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday night, consigning them to a 4-3 aggregate loss despite a pair of stoppage-time goals.
Roared on by as many as 30,000 travelling fans squeezed into Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Frankfurt made a lightning start. As the ball tumbled out of the Catalan sky, Eric Garcia got a firm grip of Jesper Lindstrom, sending himself and the Dane to the turf to concede a third-minute penalty – the fourth spot-kick Barcelona have given away in their last two matches.
Filip Kostic duly converted to open the scoring on the night and give his side a 2-1 aggregate lead.
In a rerun of the first leg, Frankfurt loomed like a coiled spring around halfway, desperate for the player in possession to set off one of their pressing triggers – be it a backwards pass or heavy touch – and fly forward.
In the final ten minutes of the first half, Sergio Busquets’ peripheral vision was snowed out by a tundra of white shirts swarming around the ball. Frankfurt robbed possession for the umpteenth time, but Rafael Borre produced a once-in-a-lifetime strike to double the lead, ripping a venomous effort past Marc-Andre ter Stegen from 25 yards.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang nodded a close-range header over the bar between Frankfurt’s first two goals before squandering an even better opening at the start of the second half. Yet, it was Frankfurt that had the lion’s share of the chances with just a fraction of the possession.
Despite their two-goal advantage, Frankfurt continued to commit well-stocked packs of players in their surges forward. While this bold approach continued to create chances for the visitors, it left yawning chasms for Barcelona to exploit, producing a mesmerisingly open tie.
However, Barcelona didn’t have the excuse of being caught in transition to explain away Frankfurt’s third. Watching on as the ninth-placed Bundesliga side worked the ball across the width of the pitch from a throw-in, Kostic had space to rattle in his second of the night, drilling a trademark scuttler into the far corner.
Busquets had a tap-in during the closing stages ruled out but got his goal with an effort thumped in during the first minute of nine added on, sparking a late flurry that thoroughly misrepresented the superiority Frankfurt exerted over their hosts for so much of both legs.
With the last kick of the game, Memphis Depay converted a 101st-minute penalty Evan N’Dicka’s collision with Luuk de Jong had caused. But there wasn’t any time left to take advantage of the Frankfurt defender’s red card as the German side now advance to a semi-final tie against West Ham.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 5/10 – Would have done well to see Borre’s strike, let alone stop it.
Oscar Mingueza (RB) – 4/10 – Caught halfway between full-back and auxiliary centre-back, Oscar Mingueza failed to carry out either role which much assurance.
Ronald Araujo (CB) – 4/10 – Time and again failed to pick out a teammate when attempting the Hollywood that ball Barcelona miss without Gerard PIque.
Eric Garcia (CB) – 5/10 – Got far too handsy to give away the penalty but made some critical interceptions in transition.
Jordi Alba (LB) – 3/10 – Twisted inside and out so severely by Ansgar Knauff he ended up scrambling for the ball while writhing in the grass on his backside.
Pedri (CM) – 4/10 – Exerted such little impact on proceedings that the 19-year-old didn’t reappear for the second half.
Sergio Busquets (CM) – 4/10 – In a thoroughly uncharacteristic performance, the captain’s late consolation came after spending much of the game bypassed in midfield.
Gavi (CM) – 5/10 – Driving around the pitch with his tongue poking into his cheek, the teenager repeatedly swapped positions in a vain attempt to offer a passing option amid Frankfurt’s compact rearguard.
Ousmane Dembele (RW) – 6/10 – Encircled by at least two white shirts every time he got the ball, Dembele proved Barcelona‘s brightest spark when he could evade the pressure.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – 5/10 – On the end of Barcelona’s clearest chances while he was on the pitch but lacked the clinical edge which has defined his start to life in Catalonia.
Ferran Torres (LW) – 4/10 – Skirting around the fringes of the contest, Torres failed to contribute much of note even after being shunted through the middle.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 5/10 – Immediately demonstrated the thrust Barcelona’s performance had lacked within moments of his arrival but faded thereafter.
Sergino Dest (RB) – 3/10 – Not aided by the natural overload this clash of systems provides when the wing-backs get forward, but repeatedly failed to even get close to Kostic.
Adama Traore (RW) – 5/10
Luuk de Jong (ST) – 5/10 – Cause havoc in the chaotic closing stages.
Memphis Depay (AM) – 5/10 – Just about converted his spot-kick.