The atmosphere was outstanding at the Europa-Park Stadion, not just on the terrace, but throughout the whole ground. The home fans were right behind their side and saw them create the first chance of the night too. In the second minute, Lukas Kübler robbed Marcel Halstenberg of the ball and gave it to Lucas Höler. He fed Michael Gregoritsch, but Amadou Haidara got back to deny him a clear shot on goal. At the other end, Freiburg were lucky not to trail in the sixth minute when Christopher Nkunku got in behind Matthias Ginter. He could only put his shot past Mark Flekken and the far post though.
It was an intense start to the game and the action certainly didn’t stop there. Ritsu Doan cut in from the right flank and hit a shot just a few inches past the post (9’). “I felt like we were in the game at 0-0,” said Christian Streich. Shortly afterwards, the visitors were suddenly 2-0 up. Dani Olmo’s header gave them the lead (14’) and then Benjamin Henrichs was clean through to make it 2-0 a minute later (15’).
Leipzig clinical in front of goal
Christian Streich reacted to this bad start by bringing on Vincenzo Grifo for Kiliann Sildillia in the 20th minute as his side looked to find a way back into the game. Unfortunately though, the defending Pokal champions were often quicker to the ball or able to make a last-ditch tackle to deny SC a chance or a goal. One example came in the 23rd minute when Gregoritsch was a few centimeters away from stealing the ball from goalkeeper Blaswich.
Despite Freiburg’s best attempts to get a goal back, it was the visitors who got the next goal. A one-two between Dani Olmo and Dominik Szoboszlai resulted in the latter getting into the box, clear of the SC defenders, and he slotted the ball past Mark Flekken for 3-0 (37’). While it seemed that every Leipzig shot was hitting the back of the net, the same simply couldn’t be said for the home side. Gregoritsch fired narrowly wide after a nice ball to him by Grifo after 39 minutes. Leipzig added a fourth goal on the stroke of half time, with Nkunku finding himself in too much space in the box. “We played at a high tempo and were really clinical tonight,” commented RB coach Marco Rose.
Christian Streich summed up the evening’s events: “We were clearly second best tonight. It’s a real shame, but I’m not too upset. We can’t compete with Leipzig when they play like that.”
Red card for Leipzig
The second half began at a lower tempo, as SC were afforded more of the ball with Leipzig happy to sit back thanks to their four-goal lead. The away side were extremely solid up until the 55th minute, when Josko Gvardiol brought down Roland Sallai on the edge of the box as the last man. Referee Sven Jablonski initially let play continue, but VAR intervened and informed him to watch back the incident. After doing so, the referee sent the defender off for a professional foul.
Grifo stepped up to take the resulting free-kick and forced Blaswich into a good save. The home fans increased the noise – certainly not a given when the team is 4-0 down. Leipzig made three defensive substitutions to shore things up after the red card and that allowed Freiburg to knock the ball about more. The passion on the pitch unfortunately boiled over into the stands in the 70th minute. Following an incident with Kübel and Blaswich, some home fans threw items at the away players.
Gregoritsch pulls one back
Just as things started to calm down again, the fans were back on their feet. Roland Sallai delivered a ball from the right flank and Gregoritsch headed home to reduce the deficit (75’). Even with the fantastic backing of the home fans, SC couldn’t find their way through Leipzig’s defence to get another goal, despite a number of crosses and runs into the boxes. Instead, Leipzig got another goal to really rub salt into the wounds. Dominik Szoboszlai scored from the penalty spot in the sixth minute of injury time.
The players were still given a standing ovation by the fans after the final whistle. The highlight of this cup tie was how the SC supporters – aside from the unnecessary behaviour in the 70th minute – cheered on the team all night long, even after the game, something that Rose also praised: “It’s a great stadium with great fans – the atmosphere was brilliant tonight.”
Photo: Achim Keller