Under Niko Kovac’s care, Eintracht Frankfurt have worked tirelessly to climb the Bundesliga table this season, clawing their way to seventh place on the threshold of qualifying for the Europa League. And after today’s performance it threatens to slip all away. Since his surprise signing, Niko Kovac has alienated two clubs, his current and his future club, with a string of poor performances.
A disconcerting record
Since Kovac was announced as Bayern Munich’s next coach, succeeding the legendary Jupp Heynckes, Eintracht has lost all three of its Bundesliga matches by wide margins. Although the team scraped by Schalke to reach the DFB-Pokal final, Eintracht were defeated by Bayer Leverkusen 4-1, by Hertha Berlin 3-0, and today by a Bayern team featuring four youth players and only three regular starters.
Kovac’s reception at the Allianz was “ice cold” (Abendzeitung). As his name was announced the Eintracht fans in the guest block began a concert of whistles and boos. The Bayern fans joined in. Fans in Frankfurt have accused Kovac of hypocrisy for the contradictory remarks he made about his signing. Fans in Munich feel he lacks the pedigree to coach an elite club like Bayern.
Eintracht’s performance today managed to dismay both fans.
Helpless against the Bayern “C-team”
Bayern is regularly accused of distortion of competition late in the season when the club spares starters in Bundesliga games to prepare for the Champions League. (If anything, it is the Champions League itself that has distorted competition in every league.) Today looked like a classic case: Heynckes had called up no fewer than four youth players to rest every starter except Sven Ulreich, Mats Hummels, and Joshua Kimmich.
This game against Bayern’s “C-team,” the youngest since 1971, was Eintracht’s to lose—and yet they did, spectacularly. Niklas Dorsch gave Bayern the lead in his Bundesliga debut, Sandro Wagner raised it to 2-0. But even after Eintracht showed some life and closed the lead to 2-1, they conceded late goals to Rafinha and Niklas Süle, reaching the devastating final score of 4-1.
“We imagined that differently,” Kovac said after the game. “On account of the situation that emerged with Bayern’s lineup, we were counting on much, much more.” Kovac attempted to mitigate the circumstances by praising Bayern—”The quality that Bayern had on the field was is enough to score goals”—but that is only stating what is obvious from the final scoreline. Against such a pathetic Eintracht, even four debutantes could put on a show.
The criticism of Eintracht’s sporting director and Bayern’s newest enemy, Fredi Bobic, was withering (Kicker):
This performance leaves me speechless. This was a non-performance.
Bobic argued that “you can expect realistic chances” against a team that had “never taken the field in that form”:
But you have to go into it with a different mentality and attitude. The boy were far, far removed from that. They completely deserved to lose—and with this scoreline. If we continue to play like that, we won’t get any more points. That is totally irritating—especially in our situation.
After failing to take three points home from Munich, Kovac and Eintracht failed to pass RB Leipzig for sixth place, while VfB Stuttgart and Borussia Mönchengladbach lurk just one and two points behind in eight and ninth. The shelling Eintracht received from Bayern also brought their goal difference down to -2.
Eintracht’s European dream may be dead, and neither Eintracht nor Bayern can be pleased.