Eintracht Frankfurt coach Adi Huetter said that Sunday was one of the worst days of his career as his side were thrashed 6-1 by Bayer Leverkusen, just days before they travel to Chelsea for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final tie.
“Today is a very dark day, one of my worst as a coach,” Huetter told Sky.
Frankfurt, who are challenging for a top four spot in the Bundesliga and held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw at home last week, were stunned in a bizarre first half at the BayArena where all seven goals were scored.
“We knew Frankfurt had an intense Europa League game behind them, so we wanted to play with energy from the beginning,” Leverkusen striker Kevin Volland told Sky.
Kai Havertz opened the scoring for Leverkusen after just two minutes, and Julian Brandt added another before Jonathan Tah deflected in a Filip Kostic shot to briefly allow Frankfurt back into the game.
A brace from Lucas Alario, a Charles Aranguiz strike and a Martin Hinteregger own goal put Leverkusen 6-1 up by the 36th minute and completed a Bundesliga record of seven goals in the first half.
Frankfurt remain in fourth but are now level on points with Leverkusen, and only three points ahead of seventh-place Hoffenheim.
“I am not going to kick my team when they are down, we need to get the boys back on track,” said Huetter.
Sunday’s horror show also damaged what had been a healthy goal difference advantage over their rivals in the race for Europe.
– Schalke safe –
Elsewhere, Schalke secured their Bundesliga survival with a 0-0 draw at home to Augsburg.
“It’s a shame for the fans that we weren’t able to win today, but staying up was the main thing,” said interim coach Huub Stevens.
Stevens, who had twice managed the club before and led them to UEFA Cup glory in 1997, stepped in and took the reins from Domenico Tedesco in March with Schalke just four points clear of the bottom three.
Sunday’s draw put them seven points clear of Stuttgart, who are in the relegation play-off place, sealing safety with two games to spare.
Stevens refused to answer questions about former Huddersfield coach David Wagner, who played under him at Schalke in the 1990s and is rumoured to be next in line for the head coach job.
“As a member of the Schalke board, I am unable to comment,” he said.
Freiburg also avoided the drop as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Fortuna Duesseldorf.
Vincenzo Grifo gave the hosts an early lead from the penalty spot, before Dawid Kownacki smashed in the equaliser for Duesseldorf on the half-hour mark.
Freiburg’s Janik Haberer was sent off in the second half, but they held on to secure the point and another year in the top flight.
Naomi Osaka withdraws from Italian Open quarter-finals with hand injury
World number one Naomi Osaka pulled out of the Italian Open quarter-finals on Friday with a right thumb injury, casting doubts over her participation in this month’s French Open.
The 21-year-old Japanese was scheduled to face sixth seed Kiki Bertens after coming through two matches on Thursday in the rain-affected tournament.
But she said she was forced to withdraw due to pain and swelling at the base of her thumb.
“I woke up this morning and couldn’t really move my thumb,” Osaka told reporters.
“I tried to practise and grip my racket but I couldn’t, and I kept feeling this pain when I tried to move my hand in different directions.
“Right now I’m… in between sad and disappointed because I really wanted to play my match today. For me, it was sort of a test to play against Kiki because she’s playing really well and I wanted to see how well I could do today.
“I didn’t feel anything yesterday. That’s why I’m kind of confused right now because I literally woke up in the morning and couldn’t move my thumb. So, I was like, maybe I slept on it and maybe it will go away, but it didn’t.”
An abdominal injury had forced Osaka to pull out ahead of her semi-final clash in Stuttgart last month before she was beaten by Belinda Bencic in the Madrid Open quarter-finals.
“I would describe (my clay season) as rocky,” Osaka added.
“But I can’t necessarily say it’s been ups and downs because if I think about it, it’s definitely been going up. Every match I’ve played I’ve learned a lot. I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned into the next match and I think I’ve done that well.”
Following her U.S. Open and Australian triumphs, Osaka is chasing a third straight Grand Slam trophy at the French Open which begins on May 26.
Obi Mikel To Lead Super Eagles At Africa Cup Of Nations
John Obi Mikel has confirmed he is available to return to the Super Eagles for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, according to a team official.
The former Chelsea star last played for Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and was not involved in the qualifying for this year’s Nations Cup.
“Mikel has met with coach (Gernot) Rohr in England and he has confirmed he will feature at the Nations Cup in Egypt,” said a top team official.
The 32-year-old Obi, now with English Championship side Middlesborough, has won 85 caps and scored six goals since his full international debut in 2005 against Libya.
Experts said his experience and leadership would be invaluable to a squad that includes many players making their debut in this competition after Nigeria missed out on the last two editions.
The tournament in Egypt is widely seen as the last hurrah for the player in international football.
Brighton fire manager Chris Hughton after 4-1 home defeat to Manchester City
Premiership club, Brighton and Hove Albion have sacked manager Chris Hughton after the club suffered a 4-1 home defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.
The defeat, which left them in 17th-place finish in the Premier League also gave Manchester City their second Premier League titles in a row.
Brighton chairman Tony Bloom said in a statement on the club website:’Chris has done an excellent job over the past four and a half years.
‘Undoubtedly, this has been one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make as chairman of Brighton, but ultimately one I have made due to how we struggled in the second half of the season.
‘Our run of 3 wins from 23 Premier League matches put our status at significant risk. It is with that in mind, and the performances during that period, that I now feel it’s the right time for a change.
‘Chris will always be very fondly remembered by Albion staff and fans as one of our club’s finest and most-respected managers.
‘I would like to wish Chris, Paul and Paul – who have all worked extremely hard throughout their time here – every success for the future, and thank them on behalf of everyone at the club.
‘They will always be welcome at the Amex, and will be remembered here with great affection.’