Germany: Bundesliga
1 - 4
(0 - 3)
Union Berlin
L. Höler (59)
G. Prömel (11), C. Trimmel (30), S. Becker (41), A. Schafer (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15.30 Kickoffs: Europe-bound Freiburg and Köln drop points, Leverkusen secure Champions League berth

German football's European football picture gets a little clearer after a set of four simultaneous 15:30 kickoffs in the 2021/22 German Bundesliga's penultimate round. 

Losses for Freiburg and Köln, combined with a big win for Leverkusen over Hoffenheim, ensure that three of Germany's four Champions' League representatives (Bayern, Dortmund, and Leverkusen) are set. 

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Köln, Freiburg, and Union Berlin are all assured of European football next season, but whether they shall play in the Champions' League, Europa League, or Conference League remains to be seen. 
In a match that did feature some officiating controversies, SC Freiburg's hopes of qualifying for the Champions' League suffered a big setback on Saturday afternoon. Christian Streich's Breisgauer fell behind early against visiting 1. FC Union Berlin at the Europa Park Stadion and were unable to fight their way back. Freiburg remain in fourth place for the time being by just a single point, with Leipzig having a chance to overtake tomorrow.

Freiburg trainer Streich made just one change to the XI that topped Hoffenheim in last Saturday's "Top-Spiel". Injured defender Manuel Gulde was replaced by South Korean attacker Woo-Yeong Jeong. The personnel change shifted Streich's tactics from a three-man backline to a back-four. Lukas Kübler and captain Christian Günter moved back into fullback roles. Jeong served as the ten behind lead striker Lucas Höler, flanked by Roland Sallai and Vincenzo Grifo.

Union head-coach Urs Fischer still had to do without injured central defenders Timo Baumgartl and former Freiburg man Dominique Heintz. Rather than deviate from the personnel plug that earned him some criticism last week, Fischer stuck with Julian Ryerson in as the left-slant in his back-three. One change to his XI saw Bastian Oczipka rotated in for Niko Gießelmann at the left-wingback position. Die Eiserenen remained in their customary 3-5-2 "double stack".

A lively start to proceeding saw both sides len heavily into the midfield duels and both keepers try and spark quick counters with long-launch verticals. One maintained the feeling that the opening goal wouldn't be delayed long. It came in the 11th. Sheraldo Becker charged up the right flank and sent in a dangerous cross for Awoniyi. Maximilian Eggestein, doing his best to mark the Nigerian striker, inadvertently defected the ball off the left post with his chest.

Grischa Prömel charged in to finish off the chance after the ball spun off the left post over to the right whilst remaining on the goal-line. The 1-0 came courtesy of a simple tap-in. After a slip from Awoniyi in the 13th caused the guests to miss an opportunity to double the advantage. Freiburg's response was quite robust. The hosts kept the ball moving with quick-cut passing and soon generated some chances of their own. Nico Schlotterbeck thought he had earned a penalty in the 16th. Höler thought he had drawn his side level in the 21st.

Unfortunately for the Breisgauer, Höler's brilliant takedown of a Sallai cross and excellent finish following a strong duel win against Paul Jaeckel was waved off. Match official Dr. Feliz Brych trusted the judgement of the VAR team without reviewing the play himself. VAR officials in Germany's "Kölner Keller" ruled that the ball had touched Höler's arm in the lead-up, even though replays seemed to confirm that the ball actually bounced off his shoulder.

Three minutes after the equalizer was disallowed, Union were able to double the advantage. Becker bumped Philipp Lienhart off the ball on the left side of the area in at the half-hour mark. The Suriname international then took some intelligent touches and sent in a perfect cross for FCU captain Christopher Trimmel after turning around. Freiburg captain Günter's marking on his counterpart was very poor. Trimmel headed home easily for the 2-0.

Freiburg continued to lord over much of the possession. Union nevertheless proved ruthlessly efficient in front of goal. Awoniyi put Becker through in the 41st following a half-clearance from Schlotterbeck. The assister of the second goal had his own tally. The visiting Köpenickers also had a 3-0 lead heading into the tunnel after applying a dagger straight to the heart of their hosts.

Streich brought on Nils Petersen for Jeong at the half and switched to a 4-4-2 for the second week in a row. The change did provide a further boost to the SCF attack and the hosts came close to pulling a goal back several times in the opening ten minutes. Both Höler and Petersen barely missed early chances. Höler saw another goal waved off in the 59th because of an offside position.

This time VAR intervention benefitted the Schwarzwälder, however. The review team overruled the judgement on the field and the 1-3 was allowed to stand. Substitutes and stoppages nevertheless impeded the flow of the match thereafter. Streich's men weren't able to produce much of note against the compact ranks of the FCU defense. Grifo got off a good effort in the 83rd. Union substitute Andras Schäfer added a fourth in the 90th.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, European football chasing Köln also suffered a setback. Steffen Baumgart's Geißböcke were unable to overcome Wolfsburg at home. Despite the 0-1 loss, Köln can be assured of at least UEFA Europa Conference League football next season because of another result.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen's 4-2 comeback win over Hoffenheim officially cuts the TSG out of European contention. Geardo Seoane's Werkelf can also celebrate the clinch of Champions' League football themselves with the victory. Back-to-back tallies from Moussa Diaby and Patrik Schick enabled Germany's red company team to fight back from a 1-2 deficit with 15 minutes remaining.

In a match that was effectively meaningless for both sides, Borussia Dortmund prevailed over SpVgg Greuther Fürth 3-1 in the final top-flight game to be played at the Sportpark Ronhof. Julian Brandt notched a brace in the BVB victory while Jessic Ngankam scored the lone goal for the relegated Kleeblätter.

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