SC needed a while to adjust to the rough surface of the pitch in Bochum, with the ball bouncing unpredictably and passes picking up speed unexpectedly. As a result, the team were unable to play their usual passing game in front of the 25,100 fans in attendance at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion. VfL goalkeeper Manuel Riemann only had to make his first save in the 26th minute, as Lukas Kübler switched the play over to Michael Gregoritsch. His volley found Ritsu Doan in the centre of the box, but he wasn’t able to put enough power on his header to trouble Riemann.
Head coach Christian Streich made just one change to the starting XI following last weekend’s 2-1 derby win against VfB Stuttgart. Roland Sallai was on the bench as Lucas Höler replaced him in attack, alongside Gregoritsch. Bochum were without Gerrit Holtmann (knee operation), who had been a thorn in Freiburg’s side when the two sides met earlier this season (1-0 win for SC).
SC loanee Keven Schlottebeck started at centre-back for VfL and was involved in an early attack from the hosts straight from kick off. His flicked on header found Christopher Antwi-Adjei as Bochum recorded the first chance of the game just eight seconds in.
Goal line clearance from Soares
Streich said before the game that he was expecting a “tough fight,” a prediction which proved correct, as did his assumption that Bochum would go with a man-marking approach. VfL head coach Thomas Letsch had his backline push up to the half-way line at times. “We didn’t take any unnecessary risks by trying to build up play from the back,” Streich said afterwards. “Going 1-0 up played into our hands.”
Whenever SC managed to get in behind VfL’s backline, they were able to find plenty of room. This was the case when Christian Günter found himself with plenty of space down the left wing and was able to drive forward into the final third. The ball found its way to Nicolas Höfler, whose shot from 15 metres out would have been on its way in, had Danilo Soares not cleared it off the line at the last minute (39’).
Freiburg were able to capitalise off the resulting corner, as Vincenzo Grifo picked out Gregoritsch for a tap-in at the back post (39’). Mark Flekken was able to parry a free kick from Kevin Stöger just before the break, ensuring that Freiburg’s 1-0 lead remained intact.
Höler doubles SC’s advantage
VfL made one change at the break, bringing on Konstantinos Stafylidis for Soares at left-back. Six minutes later, he and Höler contested a header following a cross from Günter. The SC striker was able to win it, sending his header into the opposite corner of where Riemann was standing to double Freiburg’s lead (51’). Stafylidis had a chance to get one back shortly after, sending a long-range effort just wide of the target (54’).
SC were on course for their first away win in the league in 2023, as the evening turned from bad to worse for the hosts. VfL captain Anthony Losilla was sent off in the 63rd minute after a studs-up challenge on Höfler. Five minutes later, Doan nearly added a third for the visitors but his shot narrowly missed hitting the target.
“I have to compliment the team for their performance. They did everything they could in order to come out on top, which they did. Sometimes, you also need a bit of luck in certain situations. Hat’s off to them, for how they performed today,” said Streich.
Despite finding themselves two goals down, the VfL faithful never stopped cheering on their side. Flekken was forced to make several big saves, notably against Philipp Hofmann (70’) and Jordi Osei-Tutu (72’). Wooyeong Jeong had a chance to add to SC’s lead in the 90th minute, but his shot from inside the area only hit the crossbar. At the full time whistle, the SC fans burst into chants of “Never again second division” – celebration of the fact that their side has now reached the 40-point mark that is normally enough to guarantee safety. Freiburg are currently in fourth place, level on points with Dortmund (3rd) and Leipzig (5th).
Photo: Joachim Bywaletz