“We played too slowly in the first half, and didn’t get into dangerous spaces as a result. We did better for about 20 minutes in the second half, but then things got scrappy and we lost a bit of control. We needed Mark Flekken once or twice today. We have to be happy with this result,” examined Christian Streich following the final whistle.
In contrast to the 1-1 draw against Bayer 04, Streich and co. decided to set up with a back three. Captain Christian Günter returned to the side following his yellow-card suspension, alongside Roland Sallai. Michael Gregoritsch did not make the trip to Borussia-Park – the striker was ill. Also under the weather was Ritsu Doan, who was forced off due to his illness against Leverkusen. He was named on the bench for his fixture.
The hosts were only able to make one of their team decisions at the end of the week – replacement goalkeeper Tobias Sippel started between the sticks against SCF in place of the injured Jonas Omlin and Jan Olschowsky. Following their 4-0 drubbing by Mainz last weekend, head coach Daniel Farke made two other changes: Joe Scally and Marcus Thuram replaced Stefan Lainer and Hannes Wolf.
Flekken called into action
Freiburg began on the front foot, taking the game to the home side and putting together some stunning moves, even after just three minutes. Set up by Maxi Eggestein, Sallai took a curling effort from 22 yards, but Sippel was equal to it.
The hosts, who like SCF have offered lots of danger from set pieces, also offered a first flash of danger early on. After a corner, Thuram’s low drive forced Flekken in the Freiburg goal into a first save of the afternoon (8’)
In an exciting and open first few minutes, the Freiburg defence were then once more tested by the Gladbach attack. Christoph Kramer’s through-ball found Alassane Plea all alone in front of goal, but Flekken was able to deny the striker with a fantastic reflex save (18’).
“We want to see you fight” was the early chant from the Gladbach fans behind their goal, hoping to inspire their team following a tumultuous few weeks. SCF head coach Streich had asked his players to show their presence and perform robustly ahead of the game – both teams succeeded in carrying out their tasks, but did not overstep the mark of fairness too much in the half.
Even though the possessions stats were largely even before the break, the team on top in the final third was the home side. Borussia’s third big chance of the game was denied by Lucas Höler, who cleared Ramy Bensebaini’s header off the line on 36 minutes. That was the last real action of the half; the interval came with the scoresheet empty.
SCF start well after the break
Freiburg created a big chance right out of the blocks after half-time. On the transition, Sallai entered the box down the inside right channel. The Hungarian’s powerful attempt was very well denied by Sippel (49’). A minute later, Höler then took a first-time shot which landed wide of the mark.
In general, the away side set the tempo of the half and created a lot of corners and chances in the early half. Almost always involved were Sallai and Eggestein, two of the liveliest Freiburg players of the afternoon.
With 66 minutes gone, the away end was able to breathe a major sigh of relief. After a duel between Nicolas Höfler and Thuram, referee Benjamin Brand spotted what he thought was a foul pointed to the spot for a Gladbach penalty. After being sent to the VAR monitor, however, he reversed his decision and the game restarted.
Bundesliga debut for Röhl
It took a while for Borussia to find their feet in the second half, but with around 70 minutes on the clock, Farke’s team was well in the game, showing their strength with a chance for Plea. After a fine solo run by Thuram, Plea was free to shoot eight yards from goal, but wildly missed the target (74’).
With ten minutes of normal time to go, Merlin Röhl was able to celebrate his Bundesliga debut for SCF. The summer signing came into the game for Eggestein, and had a big chance to win the game for his side – Höfler set him up, but Plea came back to deny him and keep the game goalless. The Foals were down to 10 men for the final five minutes of the game, as Bensebaini saw two yellow cards in the space of a few seconds, and was sent off (86’), but this did not change the scoreline.
Next week sees Freiburg return to the European stage, for a huge game. Christian Streich and his team will travel to Turin on Thursday night, to face Juventus in the Europa League last 16. Kickoff is 21:00 CET.
Photo: Stefan Brauer