You could smell the anticipation in the air ahead of SC’s first home game of the 2023/24 Bundesliga season. The teams were welcomed by a tifo from the Südtribüne, as the fans raised their hands in the air and welcomed the players to the pitch ahead of kick off.
Head coach Christian Streich made three changes to his starting XI, as Nicolas Höfler returned following his suspension. Ritsu Doan replaced Michael Gregoritsch in attack, with Kiliann Sildillia coming in for the injury Christian Günter. After undergoing surgery on a broken arm previously, the captain re-broke the same arm during training this week and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Vincenzo Grifo donned the armband in his stead, as SC kept the opponents busy with several chances from Roland Sallai, Doan and Grifo.
Werder first tested the SC defence in the 17th minute, as Mitchell Weiser sent a shot over the bar from the top of the box. Freiburg’s first shot on target came just three minutes later, but Sallai’s effort was caught by Jiri Pavlenka. The Werder goalkeeper made two incredible saves in quick succession, first denying Sallai and then keeping out Grifo’s rebound.
It was a fast-paced, attacking game with chances on both ends, although neither was able to make them count. The final highlight of the first half came in the 43rd minute, as Doan expertly controlled a long ball with the top of his foot, drawing applause from the stands for his skilled touch. Both sides headed into the dressing rooms still deadlocked at 0-0.
SC lacking efficiency in front of goal
The second half began in much the same fashion as the first, with missed chances on both sides. Jens Stage came close in the 50th minute after a misjudged clearance from the SC backline. Schmid then sent a shot over the bar just moments later. SC had the bulk of possession, but Werder remained compact at the back and looked to counter quickly in order to get the ball forwards to strikers Niclas Füllkrug and Marvin Ducksch.
SC were able to break past the Bremen defence in the 61st minute, with Sallai having two shots saved and Lucas Höler also failing to capitalise on the rebound. Füllkrug nearly put the visitors in front with a header in the 64th minute, but Lukas Kübler was able to clear it in front of the goal-line. Streich had brought on new signing Maximilian Philipp to get some fresh legs in attack, as SC continued to hunt for an opening goal. Grifo had an effort blocked in the 66th minute, before Philipp hit the side-netting (68’).
Philipp scores the winner
The visitors had the better chances on goal in this period, but weren’t clinical enough to make them count. Gregoritsch, who had just come on, had a chance to put the hosts ahead from close range, but missed (76′). The final minutes of normal time were frantic, as Noah Weißhaupt’s cross took a deflection and landed on the top netting. SC then hit the crossbar from the resulting corner, as it looked as time had run out for the hosts.
Then came the sixth minute of injury time. Philipp was able to score the only goal of the afternoon, having only arrived in Freiburg on Monday but having given it “100%” since his very first training session with the team, according to Streich. Weißhaupt was able to beat his marker on the right flank before crossing into the centre of the pitch, where Philipp was able to score a spectacular volley to seal a 1-0 win for SC Freiburg. “It’s great for Milli to have been able to start like this,” said Streich, adding that “Milli is back home now.”
“It was a deserved win,” the head coach continued. “Bremen did a great job today. They knew exactly what to do, which made things tough for us. It was great to see the team find their way into more space as the match progressed. That allowed us to create four clear-cut chances on goal. Pavlenka made some great saves.”
Photo: Achim Keller