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Missed final: Eintracht U17 draws strength from penalty drama |

Eintracht Frankfurt’s U17s missed the German championship final in a dramatic game against Bayer Leverkusen. There are unpleasant scenes next to the pitch, but in the end the pride prevails among the Hessians.

By Bastian Gerling

Audio contribution


00:14 mins

Coach Sebastian Haag sees the game as an important experience

Coach Sebastian Haag gets his team ready for the game in a circle.

End of audio contribution

Loud whistles rang through the Dreieich sports park. The fence behind the goal wobbled menacingly, the Eintracht supporters were shaking it so much. These were the last attempts to unsettle Leverkusen’s fifth penalty taker, Naba Mensah. Without success, Mensah scored. The Eintracht players collapsed on the halfway line and buried their faces in their jerseys.

They had thrown everything into the game, fought their way into the game, but in the end they still had to watch their opponents sprint in celebration. The first participation in the final of the German U17 championship in 14 years was a thing of the past. And with it the crowning of a strong season. For Eintracht’s U17 coach Sebastian Haag, the 3:4 after penalties (2:2 after 90 minutes) in the second leg was a “bitter result, but not a bitter day”. He was “very, very proud of the way the boys performed.”

Eintracht starts nervously

His team got off to a very unfortunate start to the game: after just two minutes, the Frankfurt team fell behind after a failed pass in the build-up game and were visibly nervous as a result. With over 2,000 spectators, including professional captain Sebastian Rode, world champion Shkodran Mustafi and Frankfurt’s football god Alexander Meier, that’s understandable. In any case, Coach Haag said: “That’s normal. The boys are playing in front of a television audience for the second time in their lives. Then we had a super strong, emotional audience here. You need one or two actions to get rid of the nervousness to be put down.”

The early goal was not only the trigger for the Hessians’ nervous phase, but also for some unpleasant scenes that do not belong in youth football: Bayer’s goalscorer Artem Stepanov celebrated right in front of the home fans, who threw cups and insulted individuals throughout the entire game Leverkusen. They, in turn, celebrated the victory again directly in front of the Eintracht supporters, and cups flew again. This spoiled the otherwise good mood and distracted from what was happening on the pitch.

Painful defeat, important experience

And there was enough to see. Namely a Eintracht team that shook off its nervousness and got better and better into the game. After a free kick cross, captain Philipp Eisele equalized shortly before halftime (45th + 3). Immediately after the break, Leart Hoti even gave Eintracht a 2-1 lead (48th). In the end, we simply didn’t have the strength to defend against strong Leverkusen players, explains offensive player Christian Prenaj: “The second goal didn’t have to happen. We weren’t there anymore with our heads or our strength because we had to do everything we could for our third goal have given.”

The third goal was not scored, despite great chances. Instead, Leverkusen scored to equalize 2-2 (Hawighorst, 75th). Since the first leg in Leverkusen ended with the same result after being 2-0 down, it went to penalties. Eintracht narrowly lost that. An extremely painful experience. But Coach Haag is sure that it is also important on the way to becoming a professional. “We definitely want to have regular players in our big stadium again in the next one, two or three years. That’s why games like this are incredibly important so that the boys get to know these pressure situations.”

A regular player with the professionals, 16-year-old Christian Prenaj doesn’t think that far ahead yet. But he has one big goal, at least for next season: “Play for the German championship again. I think we can do that too.” When they were hired, so soon after the big disappointment, it was clear: the future belongs to these players.

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