10.05.2019 12:10 h

Plucky Frankfurt hailed after Euro exit

Adi Huetter's Eintracht Frankfurt side have been hailed as heroes after their fairytale European journey came to an end in a bitter penalty shootout defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

"Even though they lost in London, Frankfurt are winners in Europe this year," wrote the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Friday morning.

Frankfurt's thrilling run to the semi-final of the Europa League saw them knock out several big name teams and win admiration across Europe for the fervour of their support and the fearlessness of their football.

"Our heads are hanging low and the tears have been flowing, we are very disappointed," said coach Huetter on Thursday night. "But we can only be proud of ourselves."

In a year in which the Bundesliga's biggest teams Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both suffered an early exit in the Champions League, the romantic story of underdogs Frankfurt gave German football fans of all colours something to cheer about.

Eintracht, who were on the brink of relegation just three years ago, knocked out the likes of Benfica, Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan in the Europa League this season before holding Chelsea to two 1-1 draws in the semi-final.

"Frankfurt have restored faith in the unpredictability of football," wrote Zeit newspaper, adding that the club had "breathed life" into Europe's secondary club competition.

"The enthusiasm with which the club and its fans marched through the Europa League is a shining example for other clubs," wrote Kicker magazine, saying Frankfurt had engaged in a "heroic battle".

Frankfurt's loyal support earned plaudits for their passion and strength in numbers in cities across Europe this season.

On Thursday, several thousand away fans stayed behind to cheer the team they called "the best in Europe", long after the home stands had emptied out at Stamford Bridge.

"Europe saw that there can be a bond between those in the stands and those on the pitch, that is Frankfurt's legacy," wrote Die Zeit.

Frankfurt still have the chance to secure Champions League qualification for the first time in their history in their remaining two Bundesliga games.

They are currently fourth in the Bundesliga, ahead of Bayer Leverkusen only on goal difference.

"The fans and the team have earned the right to play in Europe next season," said Huetter on Thursday.

"We have come away empty-handed, but it has been a sensational season in Europe."