RB Leipzig are through to their third ever DFB Pokal Final after a dramatic late goal lifted them over challengers 1. FC Union Berlin at the Red Bull Arena.
Emil Forsberg headed a Benjamin Henrichs cross home at 90+2 to deny Union the chance to play for the cup in their home city.
|Emil Forsberg and André Silva.||Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
After losing the DFB Pokal Final in 2019 and 2021, RB Leipzig will get a third chance to capture Germany football's prized Pokal. The German Red Bulls, runners up to Dortmund in last year's final, will square off against fellow semi-finalists SC Freiburg. After falling behind at home, the Saxons came back to top guests FC Union Berlin 2-1 on Wednesday.
RB trainer Domenico Tedesco, having given several players a rest during the weekend league fixture against Leverkusen, rotated in five of his preferred starting XI actors. Konrad Laimer, Angelino, Dani Olmo, Christopher Nknuku, and Benjamin Henrichs all played in place of Tyler Adams, Nordi Mukiele, Emil Forsberg, and Marcel Halsternberg. Midfielder Kevin Kampl--listed as a doubt due to muscular problems--did make the squad and began the game on the bench.
Leipzig lined up in a potent 3-4-3, with Dominik Szoboszlai supporting the lethal two-striker set of André Silva and Christopher Nkunku. Urs Fischer's Eisernen lined up in the Swiss trainer's usual 3-5-2 double-stack. Two rotations from the weekend win over Eintracht Frankfurt saw wingbacks Bastian Oczipka and Christopher Trimmel replace Niko Gießelmann and Julian Ryerson.
The two sides kept the spaces tight during the opening quarter-of-an-hour. Chances didn't emerge. Tedesco's Saxon kept possession for the most part, yet couldn't break into the box. Union were able to give the hosts quite start in the 15th off a corner. Keeper Peter Gulacsi kept the underdogs from scoring with a fine double save.
The chance from Union coincided perfectly with the planned "atmosphere boycott" undertaken by the traveling Union ultras. Fans of the Köpenick club are the lone remaining set of supporters who still remain silent during the initial 15 minutes of any match against Leipzig. The once common protests have roots in German fandom's opposition to RB's corporate roots and circumvention of the 50+1 rules.
Nine minutes after the Union ultras roared into life, they had a lead to celebrate. Striker Taiwo Awoniyi played Trimmel through in the 25th. The Union skipper then hit Sheraldo Becker with a flat cross just as the attacker had broken away from defender Mohamed Simakan. Leipzig mostly remained calm after the 0-1 deficit, keeping possession and attempting to establish their game.
Silva narrowly missed a chance in the 37th after some splendid combo play. Union had great difficulty scurrying the ball away after a fine Angelino free-kick in the 40th. RB kept the pressure up for the duration of the half. An equalizer was nevertheless not forthcoming. Leipzig were undoubtably improving.
A highly physical start to the second 45 brought with it only half chances for both sides. Awoniyi unfortunately missed a golden opportunity to double his side's advantage when he slipped on a promising attacking charge in the 57th. Three minutes later, Leipzig were awarded a penalty when Paul Jaeckel was adjudged to have stomped on Nkunku's boot.
Silva converted to pull his side even. The two trainers began introducing their first subs shortly thereafter. Tedesco turned to Forsberg while Fischer tapped young prospect Andras Schäfer. The Union youngster made an immediate impact, generating a pair of chances for his side around the 70th.
Fischer refreshed his strikers in the 77th. Sven Michel and Andreas Voglsammer relieved Awoniyi and Becker. Union clearly attempted to locate Michel several times. Gulacsi and his defensive corps stood tall and kept the former SC Paderborn forward from getting any dangerous efforts off.
The game lost a bit of its flow and it seemed like both sides were preparing to play for extra time. Two minutes into second half injury time, however, substitute Forsberg headed home the hosts' ticket to Berlin. Laimer, Simakan, and Henrichs were involved in creating the chance. Schäfer sadly lost Forsberg on the coverage.
Tempers flared after the dramatic late goal and match official Dr. Felix Brych ended up doling out yellows to Simakan and Michel following a confrontation. The 2-1 scoreline held all the way up to Brych's final whistle at 90+6.
|1||P. Gulácsi (C)|
|32||J. Gvardiol ↪90|
|17||D. Szoboszlai ↪61|
|33||A. Silva ⚽ ↪90|
|9||Y. Poulsen ↩90|
|10||E. Forsberg ↩61 ⚽|
|38||H. Novoa Ramos|
|23||M. Halstenberg ↩90|
|3||P. Jaeckel ↪90|
|28||C. Trimmel (C)|
|24||G. Haraguchi ↪64|
|21||G. Prömel ↪90|
|27||S. Becker ⚽ ↪77|
|14||T. Awoniyi ↪77|
|9||A. Voglsammer ↩77|
|10||S. Michel ↩77|
|17||K. Behrens ↩90|
|13||A. Schafer ↩64|
|30||K. Möhwald ↩90|