For the fans of TSG Hoffenheim, it was a day full of entertainment. The season opening event around the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena kicked off at 11:30 CET, with the supporters enjoying numerous activities such as football darts, a bouncy castle and a face-paint stand for the kids in brilliant sunshine. The doors to the stadium opened at 14:30 CET, with the players arriving an hour later for their friendly against Spanish club Eibar. Julian Nagelsmann's charges were held to a 1-1 (0-0) draw by the Basques, who finished ninth in the Primera Division last term. Ermin Bicakcic broke the deadlock for Hoffenheim in the 61st minute but an unfortunate own-goal by Kevin Vogt on 83 minutes allowed Eibar to snatch a draw.
It was a hard-fought match that TSG began with a flourish. Pavel Kaderabek, who drew vociferous applause from the fans after prematurely extending his contract until 2023, had the first shot on goal in the second minute of the match but it was blocked. The 9,450 supporters in the stadium had to wait a while before the match got into full flow, as both teams had a hard time playing on a surface that had been left badly damaged by the heat. Kaderabek cleared a header from the Spanish side off the line on the 11-minute mark, before coming close to opening the scoring on 20 minutes. Adam Szalai flicked a Nadiem Amiri corner towards the back post, but the Czech international narrowly missed the target from a tight ankle.
It was the best opportunity of the afternoon for TSG, who made no personnel changes at the interval. They had been forced into making one before kick-off, however, with Vincenzo Grifo stepping in to replace Florian Grillitsch − a precautionary measure ahead of the first competitive match against Kaiserslautern in the First Round of the DFB Cup on 18 August.
Bicakcic puts the hosts ahead
The second period started with a long-range effort from Nadiem Amiri that was turned behind for a corner by Eibar shot-stopper Yoel Rodriguez Oterino (50). A short while later Kerem Demirbay had to come off with a niggle and was replaced by Steven Zuber (56), but TSG were not to be perturbed and broke the deadlock soon afterwards. Szalai flicked on an Amiri corner to Ermin Bicakcic, whose powerful header sailed straight into the back of the net (61).
Vincenzo Grifo could have added a second in the 66th minute, only to see his 93 km/h shot fly narrowly over the goal in front of the South Stand. It was followed by an even firmer effort − 98 km/h − two minutes later that was saved brilliantly by the Eibar custodian. That was followed by another good save at the other end in the 80th minute from Oliver Baumann, who did well to keep out a close-range header from Francesc Regis Crespi.
There was very little he could do a few moments later, however, when TSG Hoffenheim captain Kevin Vogt deflected the ball into his own net in the 83rd minute.
In the eyes of coach Julian Nagelsmann, there is still room for improvement: "It was an up-and-down performance today with good and not-so-good spells. The opponent was better than the previous ones we've faced. However, one could feasibly score eight goals against such a high line with no pressure on the ball." On the whole, though, the 31-year-old believes the last few weeks have been positive. "All in all, pre-season was very good, we've worked well."
Autograph signing after the match
The equaliser marked the end of a high-octane friendly – but that was not the end of the action for the fans. Once the match was over, the players went to the supporters at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena to sign autographs and pose for selfies and photographs.
TSG line-up: Baumann – Adams, Vogt, Bicakcic, Kaderabek (Brenet, 73), Amiri, Demirbay (Zuber, 55), Grifo, Schulz (Posch, 73) – Joelinton (Belfodil, 71), Szalai (Otto, 71).
Goals: 1-0 Bicakcic (61), 1-1 Vogt (own goal, 83)