Filip Kostic (l.) and Eintracht Frankfurt could meet Christopher Nkunku (r.) and RB Leipzig in the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League final. - © imago
Filip Kostic (l.) and Eintracht Frankfurt could meet Christopher Nkunku (r.) and RB Leipzig in the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League final. - © imago

Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig make history in UEFA Europa League


For the first time since the launch of the revamped UEFA Europa League in 2009, two German clubs are in the semi-finals, and just like over 40 years ago, the prospect of an all-German final is very much alive.

In 1980, there were even four Bundesliga representatives in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, the precursor to today's Europa League competition. Bayern Munich, Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfB Stuttgart were joined by Eintracht Frankfurt, who are back in the final four for the second time in three years, and bidding to go one step further than they did when beaten by eventual champions Chelsea on a penalty shoot-out in 2019.

"Our clubs are better than ever before," ran the headline of Kicker magazine as the UEFA Cup was rebaptised as the Bundesliga Cup.

Frankfurt won the UEFA Cup before in 1980, and they are now one step away from the final of the Europa League. - Imago

Then like now, Frankfurt's fans travelled en masse to Munich, where they witnessed a 2-0 defeat for their team. The second leg was a different story entirely, though, as Frankfurt levelled the tie over 90 minutes and went on to beat the Bavarians 5-1 after extra-time, completing an emphatic triumph and setting up another all-German affair against Gladbach.

In front of 60,000 fans in Frankfurt, substitute Fred Schaub's late goal in earned the Eagles the title thanks to the now defunct away goals rule.

Frankfurt would not have needed to rely on that rule this time anyway as they followed a 1-1 draw at home with a 3-2 win at Camp Nou, leading by three clear goals until the hosts pulled a couple back deep into second-half stoppage time.

"That was the best game of my career," said Filip Kostic, who scored two and set up the other for Rafael Borre on a memorable night. "I'm so happy and proud of this team, this club and the fans. With the support we had, it felt like a home game and it's absolutely sensational. This win is for the whole city."

Frankfurt fans will now be planning their next pilgrimage, with a trip to London and West Ham United in the semi-final, to the same city where Frankfurt suffered heartbreak at the same stage of the 2018/19 edition with elimination on a penalty shoot-out against Chelsea.

"Of course we can now start to dream of the final, but we've first got to do our homework against West Ham and earn our place in the final," said captain Sebastian Rode. "We did everything for this dream of beating Barcelona.

"Ten years ago, I was with Eintracht in Bundesliga 2, and now we're into a second European semi-final in four years. We did an incredible job."

So too did Leipzig, who beat Italian Serie A side Atalanta 2-0 in Bergamo to set up a date with Rangers in the semi-finals – just two years after reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, and only four years after making their European debut.

"We're striving for more now," said coach Domenico Tedesco. "When you reach the semi-final, then of course you want to reach the final."

Not only do they want to reach it, but according to their matchwinner Christopher Nkunku – whose brace in Bergamo took him to 30 goals for the season in all competitions – they have to aim even higher than that.

"We've worked so hard and now we want to try to win it," he said on yet another glorious night of European football for Die Roten Bullen, and the Bundesliga.