Some of the 34,700 in attendance at the Europa-Park Stadion experienced déjà vu in the 81st minute of the game, as for the second time, VfB defender Dan-Axel Zagadou made a foul in Stuttgart’s penalty area, referee Sascha Stegemann signalled to his earpiece before awarding a penalty to SCF, and Vincenzo Grifo placed the ball down on the penalty spot.
There was some bad news for SC Freiburg the day before the game, as Daniel Kofi-Kyereh, who twisted his knee in training on Thursday, was diagnosed with having torn his cruciate ligament, ruling the midfielder out for the rest of the season. All the best with your recovery, Kofi!
Two changes were made to the side that won 2-0 in the cup tie against SV Sandhausen in midweek. Ritsu Doan returned to the starting XI in place of Wooyeong Jeong, and Mark Flekken replaced Noah Atubolu in between the sticks. Both Christian Streich and Kiliann Sildillia missed the game after picking up red cards against Borussia Dortmund last weekend. Lars Voßler took charge of the team today and commented at the post-match press conference: “We started the game well, with Roland getting a couple of chances – but then we didn’t do enough after.”
Just 25 seconds into the game, SC popped up in Stuttgart’s penalty area for the first time at the sold-out Europa-Park Stadion. Fabian Bredlow, who stepped in at the last minute for Stuttgart’s first-choice goalkeeper and former Freiburg player Florian Müller (who started on the bench due to stomach issues), punched Vincenzo Grifo’s cross away from danger. The opening encounters saw both teams look to settle into the game, but Roland Sallai then had two opportunities to score past Bredlow after being played through brilliantly by Maximilian Eggestein, with the number-two keeper coming out on top both times (11’).
Freiburg controlling possession, Führich scores a wondergoal
Despite those two early Freiburg chances, it was a quiet start to the Baden-Swabia derby. SCF saw the majority of the ball, but the Swabian visitors kept it tight at the back. The intensity of the challenges going in certainly didn’t give any indication that this was a derby. 16th-placed VfB would regularly try to work the ball up the wings, but rarely worked it into any dangerous areas.
Stuttgart’s opening goal came in the 30th minute, from, as is regularly described in sports journalism, nothing. Chris Führich courageously had a go from almost 30 yards out and nailed the ball into the top corner past a helpless Mark Flekken in the SCF goal. Just four minutes later, Führich had another opportunity, his shot from 15 yards out going just wide of the far post. The score remained 1-0 going into half time.
Doan’s goal chalked off
Freiburg returned for the second half unchanged but with a greater impetus to attack. SC coach Lars Voßler explained that this was no coincidence: “We tried to correct the problems of the first half during the break. We aimed to push up the pitch and put more pressure on.”
The tactical adjustments were proving to bear fruit. The SC fans even had cause for celebration in the 50th minute, but it was short lived. Michael Gregoritsch fed Ritsu Doan, whose deflected effort from 16 yards nestled in the top right corner. However, Gregoritsch was offside by a matter of inches in the build-up, as was confirmed by a two-minute VAR check.
Whilst Freiburg were on the wrong side of this VAR check, their fortunes changed seven minutes later. Some nice play from Vincenzo Grifo and then Christian Günter saw the ball played to Michael Gregoritsch in the Stuttgart penalty box, who was challenged by Dan-Axel Zagadou. The replays clearly showed the VfB defender made contact with Gregoritsch, and so a penalty to Freiburg was awarded. Grifo, who scored against Stuttgart when the sides met earlier this season, held his nerve and cooly slotted the penalty away into the bottom-left corner (60’).
The equaliser began an exciting final half an hour to the game. Three minutes after SCF’s equaliser, Ritsu Doan had a golden chance to make it 2-1 to the home side, but his shot from close range was ultimately blocked by a Stuttgart defender. At the other end of the pitch, Chris Führich, who was by far the visitors’ most threatening attacker, got on the end of a long ball and found himself alone in Freiburg’s penalty area, but he rushed his shot and another chance went begging (70’).
Grifo keeps calm again
As mentioned earlier, the next penalty incident and lengthy VAR check occurred in the 81st minute. Once again, Grifo was ice-cold from 12 yards to give SCF the lead (84’), his third goal of the season against VfB. He was subsequently booked for taking his shirt off during the celebration, but it didn’t appear to bother the Italy international too much.
The hosts defended passionately in the final moments and overcame seven long minutes of additional time during which Borna Sosa hit the bar from a free kick. The win puts SCF on an excellent total of 37 points after 20 matches, with their next fixture coming next Saturday vs. VfL Bochum at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion.
Photos: Achim Keller