RC Strasbourg put one foot in the UEFA Europa League group stages with a tight victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their play-off round tie at the Stade de la Meinau.
Kevin Zohi’s first-half goal was enough to give the Ligue 1 side a slender lead over the Bundesliga outfit.
Story of the Match
The hosts had a strong claim for a penalty in the opening five minutes, when Lionel Carole’s powerful goal-bound strike was blocked by the arm of Makoto Hasebe in the area, but the claims were waved away by Slovakian referee, Ivan Kružliak.
It was Racing who continued their early pressure and they really should have moved in front on 12 minutes. Good build-up work down the left sent Dimitri Lienard through on goal but he was only able to find the side netting with his effort.
Frankfurt did slowly come into the game and had a chance of their own when a corner caused havoc in the home box, with Ante Rebić eventually seeing his shot blocked.
Filip Kostić was the first to test Matz Sels in the home goal, with his strongly struck free-kick forcing the keeper to push the ball away.
That pressure fell away though and it was Strasbourg who took the lead just beyond the half-hour mark. Lienard’s corner hit both Danny Da Costa and Lamine Koné before falling to Kevin Zohi who bundled the loose ball over the line.
Ludovic Ajorque then went close five minutes later when he got on the end of Adrien Thomasson’s cross from the right, but his flicked effort was off target.
Right at the end of the half, the visitors were given a free-kick on the left after a foul from Koné, with the delivery going all the way to the back post where it came off Da Costa’s head but flew over the bar as the half came to a close.
Eintracht Frankfurt came racing out of the traps at the start of the second half and really should have levelled within the first minute of the half. Da Costa got to the by-line down the right before cutting back to Daichi Kamada but his shot was kept out by a strong one-handed save from Sels.
They also had a strong penalty claim turned down soon after when Kamada worked space for another shot which deflected behind off the arm of Alexander Djiku, but the referee mistook it for Sels and instead gave a corner.
Strasbourg were prepared to sit slightly deeper in the second half and didn’t often threaten, a scuffed Ajorque volley across goal all they really offered.
Just after the hour mark, Kostić dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area as Frankfurt continued to press for an equaliser.
Unfortunately, that was about it in terms of goalmouth action as the final half-hour played out in a competitive but ultimately quiet manner as the hosts held on.
Takeaways from the Match
Going into next week’s second leg at the Commerzbank Arena, it’s advantage Strasbourg but Eintracht will know they are well in with a shout of making it into the Europa League group stages.
Game of two halves
It was the proverbial game of two halves with the hosts using home comforts to their advantage and attacking their visitors with purpose, deservedly leading at the break. The second half, on the other hand, saw Frankfurt really step up and take the game to the French side. They created chances and really should have scored at least one crucial away goal which would have put them in the driving seat ahead of the home leg next week.
Midfield battle all important
The midfield battle proved important tonight and will do again next Thursday. Whoever can win that particular battle will likely go onto win the game. Defensively, neither side looked particularly strong but they weren't tested often enough by the respective attacks with neither side really coming out on top in midfield. If that can change for either side in the return game, they may well be the side to reach the group stages.
The Strasbourg attacker played a huge part in his side's victory with his pace causing problems down the wings for the German side's back line. His quick reactions in the first half saw him force the ball home for the only goal of the game and that could be crucial in the overall outcome of the tie.
RC Strasbourg: Sels; Lala, Koné, Mitrovic, Djiku, Carole; Thomasson (Mothiba, 77), Martin, Lienard, Zohi (Sissoko, 64); Ajorque (Simakan, 86)
Eintracht Frankfurt: Trapp; Abraham, Hasebe, Hinteregger; Da Costa, Gaćinović (Rode 46), Fernandes (Kohr, 78), Torro, Kostić; Rebić (Paçiência, 46), Kamada