Niko Kovac's organised and high-pressing Eintracht Frankfurt side held Borussia Mönchengladbach, who were 10th in the Bundesliga table, to a frustrating 0-0 draw at an expectant Borussia-Park on Friday night.
André Schubert, whose men last won a league game around a month ago at home to Ingolstadt, endured the worst run of results in his Gladbach managerial career so far following the draw. Niko Kovac's energetic Eagles held onto a deserved point where the Croatian's career at his club began last season.
Three at the back for both sides
The visiting side, who were back after an impressive 3-0 trouncing of struggling Hamburg, had Alex Meier out due an injury as a return to Borussia Park was on the cards for former Gladbach striker Branimir Hrgota. Although, largely unchanged, Gladbach had Szabolcs Huszti starting for Shani Tarashaj, who had impressed at Volksparkstadion last Friday. The 3-4-3 formation saw David Abraham, Makoto Hasebe and Real Madrid loanee Jesus Vallejo slot in at centre-back.
André Schubert's inconsistent foals came up with a 3-5-2 of their own after picking up a 2-0 win with the same system against VfB Stuttgart in the DFB Pokal. Andre Hahn and mid-week's goalscorer Fabian Johnson started up front, with in-form Lars Stindl playing behind them.
A tactical first 45
The start to the game defined how it would shape up to be. Frankfurt sat in their own half, maintaining their shape perfectly and allowEd Gladbach the possession and pressed high up the pitch with Hrgota, Marco Fabian and Gacinovic. Gladbach used Vestergaard's ball playing abilities to build from the back and play the ball out fo the defense.
Gladbach unlocked Frankfurt's defense as early as in the seventh minute but good combination between Christoph Kramer and Julian Korb only led to a corner, which was cleared and the Mahmoud Dahoud skied a shot from the edge of the box. Two minutes later, high pressing by Frankfurt allowed them to win the ball close to the goal and Hrgota was through on the left flank. The forward found Fabian, whose shot was close down quickly by Oscar Wendt.
The high-pressing by the forward three disallowed Gladbach to build from the back, who were resorting to playing it back to Yann Sommer to play long balls over the top. Some quick passes though from the back though, troubled Frankfurt. But Hahn and Johnson struggled to go past the rock-solid Frankfurt back five continuously.
The first clear-cut chance fell to Hrgota himself. After breaking through the Gladbach backline on the counter, the Swede combined with Gacinovic near the left flank to set himself through. He tried to bury a shot past Sommer, but couldn't do so with the angle being tight. Minutes later, it was Gacinovic who had broken through the left flank after getting at the end of a one-two with Bastian Ozcipka, but Tony Jantschke cleared away the cross before it could reach Hrgota, who waiting in the box.
The absences of Thorgan Hazard and Raffael was making the Gladbach attack look blunt, as the link up between the midfield and attack was found wanting. The fluidity and rhythm up front was sorely lacking throughout the half. The attempt to push Oscar Wendt forward to provide some attacking impetus almost paid off after the left back combined in the middle third with Lars Stindt to set Hahn through. The German's cross from the left almost reached Johnson but the impressive Jesus Vallejo got rid of the danger.
A drab second half
The second half's commencement saw Gladbach finding some pockets of space behind the Frankfurt press. that nearly led to a Gladbach goal in the 48th minute after Andre Hahn's perfectly weighted cross from the right almost found Johnson, who was apparently pushed by David Abraham before the ball reached him. The stifled penalty shouts were ignored by the referee. Christoph Kramer had found space in the midfield, which had led to the creation of the chance.
Five minutes later, a surge into the box by Bastian Oczipka ended in the 27-year-old picking out Omar Mascarell, who shot from around 30 yards out was parried by Yann Sommer. Minutes later, Oczipka's effort from a long way out with his right foot, after Gladbach had cleared a Huszti corner, was blocked bravely by Vestergaard. That scorcher could've gone in, if not for the big Dane's block.
In the 68th minute, Lars Stindl's cross aimed at Johnson had accidentally met Mascarell's flailing foot, after Frankfurt had lost the ball at the ball for arguably the first time in the game. The former Real Madrid man's touch nearly went in, or so it did at first. But the shot had hit the side netting and Gladbach had to make do with a corner.
In the 72nd minute, Gladbach came alive. It resulted from Oscar Wendt pushing forward. The left-back combined with Johnson down the left flank and was set up by the American, but Wendt shot crashed into the woodwork after Lukas Hradecky had made a spectacular save. And the best chance of the game to score went begging.
As the game went on, the already low amount of rhythm in the game hit rock bottom and it turned scrappy. The stop-start nature of the game didn't stop the crowd from singing and chanting their side's name. The result at Borussia Park left Andre Schubert's men winless in the last four Bundesliga games.