Mainz - Eintracht Frankfurt missed out on the chance to leapfrog FC Schalke 04 in fourth place ahead of the Royal Blues' home game against Hamburger SV, playing out a goalless draw at 1. FSV Mainz 05 in the early Matchday 31 kick-off on Sunday.
Chances at a premium
The sides shared the spoils at the end of an intensively-contested Rhine-Main derby, with the result enough to edge Frankfurt above SC Freiburg and into fifth place on 46 points. For Mainz, now with just one win in their last 12 outings, the outcome in all likelihood puts paid to their chances of squeezing into a UEFA Europa League finish this season.
The match got off to a high-tempo, if somewhat uneven start, with each side largely neutralising the other as they sought to gain an edge in the middle of the park. 17-year-old midfield prospect Marc Stendera was particularly conspicuous in that regard for Frankfurt, seeing more of the ball than anyone else on the pitch over the opening 20 minutes.
Midway through the half, Andreas Ivanschitz carved out the first chance of note for Mainz, floating a cross into the box that Nicolai Müller pushed past the onrushing Oka Nikolov, but wide of the post as well.
The opening half-hour came and went with hard running and close-quarters combat very much dominating the agenda. In the closing minutes of the first half, Frankfurt finally got a sight of goal themselves, Sebastian Rode making progress down the right before finding Alexander Meier, whose first-time finish was acrobatically turned away by home keeper Christian Wetklo. Stendera's follow-on corner was headed just over the bar by Marco Russ as the visitors ended the fiercely-contested half on the attack.
The second 45 had barely got underway when Ivanschitz had the ball in the net for Mainz, but it counted for naught as the referee ruled assist-provider Shawn Parker offside. It was an early signal of intent from the hosts, however, and as the half unfolded they progressively seized the initiative, with Nikolov needing getting down well to keep out a Zdenek Pospech header on 53 minutes.
Lakic spurns late chance
Frankfurt coach Armin Veh responded twenty minutes in by freshening up his forward line with Srdjan Lakic and Olivier Occean and not long after, the Canadian frontman was only a step away from connecting to potentially decisive effect with Constant Djakpa's cross.
Half-chances at either end followed, before Marco Caligiuri inadvertently handed Lakic the ball on a plate in the 82nd minute. The Croatia international played in Sebastian Rode one-on-one against Wetklo, but the 05ers keeper made a vital stop to maintain the deadlock. Towards the end, Sebastian Jung got off a shot on the turn after Pospech was caught out of position, but the ball flew wide of the target - axiomatic, perhaps, for the contest as a whole.
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