January 31, 2017

Raging Bulls Claim Third Place

Red Bull Salzburg swept Eintracht Frankfurt aside in devastating fashion with a four-goal first half blitz that left the young Germans reeling and unable to counter.

Based on their opening tournament performances, many seasoned Al Kass watchers had predicted that both sides were capable of reaching the final. Arguably the best-organised and most well-rounded sides of this years’ competition, it therefore came as a surprise that their eventual meeting would see them battle it out for third and fourth place, rather than the 2017 crown.

As it was, Red Bull approached the tie as if it was the most important game of their lives, threatening from the outset and quickly reaping rewards for their determined approach. Comfortable on the ball throughout the team, their passing play was faultless, and it didn’t take long for the Austrian side to go ahead.

A piece of individual brilliance from Dominik Szoboszlai saw him draw three defenders out of the box. His dribbling ability and close control allowed the Salzburg number 7 to weave his way to the touchline before cutting the ball back to Aldin Aganovic. The forward was free in the area, and drove home past Tobias Stirl in convincing fashion.

The Red Bulls could have doubled their lead two minutes later, after Aminu Mohamed’s through ball to Szoboszlai caught the Frankfurt defenders off guard and forlornly chasing the rampant midfielder, who was through on goal. He rounded the keeper and unselfishly delivered a cross into the box. However, with no reinforcements on hand to put the ball away the chance was wasted, keeping the lead to a single goal.

Dominant in possession, Salzburg created chance after chance, peppering Stirl’s gpal over and over again. They went two up following a corner ball, awarded after a swift counter attack was brought to a desperate end by the Frankfurt backline. The cross was delivered to the front post with pace and precision, and Benjamin Wallquist arrived to head goalward. The ball glanced off the captain’s head and looped into the far corner, well out of the keeper’s reach.

It looked as though Frankfurt had already given up. Having seen hardly any of the ball and registering no shots, their morale was sapped, and it only got worse when Red Bull scored again.

Just four minutes after the lead had been doubled, Aganovic found himself in on goal. Latching onto a searching ball from deep midfield, his searing pace got the better of the German side’s defence, and without needing the control the bouncing pass, he lobbed the keeper first time. The forward celebrated confidently before the goal was confirmed, rubbing salt into the wounds of The Eagles’ players.

With the game already decided by the 24th minute, Frankfurt coach Steffen Winter ordered his men to press high in search of a consolation goal. However, his team looked incapable of mustering a response, and were reduced to aimlessly passing the ball around in disarray.

Having pushed further forward, Eintracht’s defence was exposed further, and soon enough Salzburg capitalised again. Szoboszlai latched on to a simple Nikola Stosic ball between the centre back, and rounded the keeper easily before producing a simple pass into an empty net = an easy finish for the skilful midfielder to send his side four in front.

The Austrian team were breathtaking in their audacious approach to the game, and saw out the remainder of the half in relaxed fashion. Their midfielders toyed with their opposition by keeping hold of the ball, and only releasing their attackers when a true goal scoring opportunity was in sight. Frankfurt were in need of a miracle. 4-0 down in the opening 30 minutes, and demotivated beyond repair, the German team needed to dig deep in order to test their opposition, but understandably were not up to the task after suffering such a confidence-eroding first 45.

Both teams took their foot off the gas after the break. Red Bull were content with their lead, and Frankfurt knew only too well that the task ahead of them was almost impossible.

Few chances were created for The Eagles, and those that were posed little threat to the keeper. An increasingly frustrated Winter could only watch as his team completed a lacklustre performance.

Red Bulls had outclassed the Germans in every department. Their desire to win, allied to some clinical finishing, had earned them a well-deserved third place as tournament outsiders, impressing in every one of their fixtures and demonstrating the pedigree of one of Europe’s top clubs.