FRANKFURT, Germany – Chelsea look poised to reach the Europa League final after battling back to secure a 1-1 draw on Thursday with Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of the semifinal tie.
Frankfurt was the better side for the opening 30 minutes. While the Blues had more of the ball, the hosts were more effective in possession.
Chelsea keeper Kepa was forced to smother the ball in the 18th minute as Danny da Costa threatened, two minutes before Frankfurt’s David Abraham fired over the net after a free kick.
The breakthrough materialized in the 23rd minute by way of Luka Jovic, a 21-year-old forward who has attracted attention from many of Europe’s big clubs.
Da Costa gathered the ball in midfield and relayed it to Filip Kostic, who dribbled to the penalty line before sending a cross into the box, where Jovic was waiting.
The young Serbian delivered a slicing header that eluded Kepa to land just inside the far post and ignite the crowd of 48,000 at Frankfurt’s Commerzbank-Arena.
Chelsea responded by picking up the pace and threatened in the 27th minute with a shot by Pedro from distance that went just wide, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s effort in the 42nd brushed the outside of the post.
Frankfurt, who spent the final phase of the first half with their backs to their own goal, conceded a corner in the 45th minute.
Home goalkeeper Kevin Trapp made a hash of clearing the ball, which found its way to Emerson, who assisted on Pedro’s equalizer.
The Premier League club took control of the contest in the second half, most of which was played in the Frankfurt end.
Trapp went a long way toward redeeming his earlier blunder, deflecting David Luiz’s free kick just before the hour mark and saving a Loftus-Cheek shot in the 74th minute.
Three minutes later, Luiz – standing unmarked in the area – fired the ball straight into Trapp’s hands.
Frankfurt came to life again in the final 10 minutes of regulation and Gonçalo Paciencia created some anxious moments for Chelsea, who are the clear favorites looking ahead to next week’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.