Ferran Torres rescues Catalan giants in Europa League after Ansgar Knauff stunner
WHEN the Europa League draw was made last month, West Ham fans circled Barcelona as glamorous semi-final opponents.
But the Catalan giants were made to work doggedly by their last eight opponents tonight.
While the ten-man Hammers were being forced to get gritty against PSV Eindhoven in East London, Eintracht Frankfurt were giving Barca an awkward evening in Germany.
In just their second home game since Bundesliga sides have been allowed capacity crowds again, more than 50,000 supporters created an incredible atmosphere inside Deutsche Bank Park.
Eintracht almost raised the decibel levels even further as they looked to get at Barca early on.
They could have fallen behind within three minutes, however, only for Kevin Trapp to tip a brilliant, rising Ferran Torres effort from range over the bar.
Djibril Sow then wasted a golden seventh-minute opportunity for the hosts, firing Jesper Lindstrom’s cut-back wide when it looked easier to score.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Eintracht a minor scare on 17 minutes, although Trapp was able to palm his low effort into the side netting.
Xavi was dealt a blow mid-way through the first-half as Gerard Pique was forced off with injury, the Spaniard being replaced by Clement Lenglet.
Eintracht were awarded a penalty in the 39th minute when Sergio Busquets was deemed to have fouled Rafael Borre in the penalty area.
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Following a lengthy VAR check, however, Busquets was adjudged to have played the ball and the call was overturned.
The two sides went in at half-time level at 0-0 despite Eintracht having the better of the action.
They didn’t have to wait long to take the lead after the break.
When Eric Garcia’s 48th minute headed clearance only reached the edge of the box, Ansgar Knauff unleashed a sensational volley into the top corner to send home fans into dreamland.
Knauff, on loan from Borussia Dortmund, had been playing in the third tier for BVB’s reserves as recently as January.
Xavi introduced Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele for Gavi and Adama Traore on the hour mark – and it didn’t take long for them to make an impact.
De Jong showed excellent footwork to set up Torres for Barca’s equaliser just five minutes later – with Dembele also playing a part.
The Frenchman played the ball into De Jong’s feet, with the Dutchman then exchanging quick passes with Torres before the ex-Manchester City star slotted past Trapp for 1-1.
Eintracht were then reduced to ten men with 12 minutes remaining, centre-back Tuta being shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Pedri.
The home side didn’t lose all threat, however, and soon after losing Tuta Evan Ndicka produced a sensational turn to create some space in the box, although his resulting pull back evaded Eintracht substitute Almamy Toure.
Barca began to pile the pressure on as the clock neared 90, but Eintracht were able to hold out for a creditable 1-1 draw that keeps the tie alive going into next week’s return match.