In the first DFB Pokal Final in 11 years not to feature either FC Bayern München or Borussia Dortmund, two clubs vied for their first major German football trophy ever.
SC Freiburg, who had hitherto only managed to win the 2. Bundesliga, contested their first-ever domestic cup final. RB Leipzig, who have never won one of the lower German footballing divisions, hoped that third time would be the charm after they lost the final in 2019 to Bayern and Dortmund last year.
Freiburg appeared to have the game at hand with a 1-0 lead against a Leipzig side reduced to ten-men just prior to the hour-mark, but Leipzig scored and equalizer shorthanded and took the match to penalties.
The German Red Bulls prevailed 4-2 in a shootout.
|Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
After dropping cup finals to Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig have finally taken the coveted bejeweled German goblet. Domenico Tedesco's men bested Christian Streich's Freiburg 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 deadlock could not be broken after 120 minutes. Christopher Nkunku pulled out a late 76th minute equalizer despite the fact that his side had been reduced to ten-men. Freiburg came close to grabbing a winner in extra time.
The match nevertheless went to penalties.
Leipzig took the lottery 4-2.
SC trainer Streich required a shift in his system after dropping the last two league games against 1. FC Union Berlin and Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The long-time club man thus sat down attacker Woo-Yeong Jeong in favor of defender Manuel Gulde. The formation still appeared to be a back-three, with Lukas Kübler and Christian Günter working advanced wingback roles ahead of Gulde, Philipp Lienhart and Nico Schlotterbeck.
RB head-coach Tedesco made one personnel change to the XI that clinched Champions' League football on the final day of the season at Bielefeld. Interestingly enough, Angelino took a seat. Lukas Klostermann took the Spaniard's place. Benjamin Henrichs moved over to the left-wingback position he had surprisingly performed so well in on the season's penultimate matchday. Tedesco also employed a back-three.
The two sides largely neutralized one another during an opening ten minutes that also featured many stoppages and an injury time-out for Christopher Nkuknu. The Saxons got the match's first chance in the 14th. SCF keeper Mark Flekken made an excellent save on Emil Forsberg. The Breisgauer net-minder could still only deflect right in front of his goalmouth. After a scramble, Nkunku's effort was deflected wide.
Five minutes later, Freiburg had the lead. Vicenzo Grifo unlocked Günter on the overlap. The SCF captain crossed in for Roland Sallai. Midfielder Maximilian Eggestein crashed in to finish a loose ball off from 20 meters out central. Replays confirmed that the ball had bounced off Sallai's hand. After video review, match official Sascha Stegemann ruled that it wasn't a deliberate infringement. The goal stood.
Streich's men survived a huge scare less than five minutes after going up 1-0 in the 19th. A double mistake by Nicolas Höfler actually gave Nkunku a double chance at goal. Schlotterbeck saved his soon to be ex-club's bacon with a scrape-away of the ball just before it crossed the goal line. The game opened up a bit and both sides were able to make some incursions into enemy territory. There were still no big chances before the half concluded.
Five minutes after the restart, Nkunku got another effort on target after a Schlotterbeck clearance landed at his feet. Flekken was down in time to stop. Some more pressure from the Saxons during the initial stages of the second 45. Tedesco had obviously adjusted the press in order to force more turnovers out of the Freiburg back-build. Leipzig were unable to make anything out of it, however, as passing in the final third proved too imprecise.
The game took a significant turn in the 57th, when Marcel Halstenberg hauled down SCF striker Lucas Höler after Grifo sprung the attacker with a nifty long ball. As there was nothing between Höler and a clear path on goal, the tactical foul counted as the denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity. Stegemann didn't hesitate for a second and produced a straight red. Kevin Kampl and Mohamed Simakan were booked for dissent.
Reduced the ten-men and undoubtedly ruffled, matters were not looking good for the Saxons. Grifo's free-kick after the foul hit the side netting, as did a Roland Sallai effort just one minute later. Despite the fact that they were outmanned, Tedesco had no choice but to send everyone forward. Schlotterbeck came up massive on two tackles away in the 67th and 72nd.
Just when it appeared all hope was lost, Leipzig pulled out an improbable equalizer in the 76th. Konrad Laimer did well to get a ball back into the area following a poor clearance of a Dominik Szoboszlai free kick. RB's long-time defensive stalwart Willi Orban won a critical aerial duel against Lienhart, pushing the ball over to Nkunku on the left for an easy finish into an empty net.
Buoyed by the 1-1, Leipzig kept pushing deep into Freiburg territory and produced the better football over the next ten minutes. Szoboszlai and Henrichs came close on a double chance in the 82nd. Flekken stood tall again. Dani Olmo shot just wide from close range in the 85th. Freiburg continued to run ragged and disorganized through the end of regulation.
Freiburg continued to have difficulty stemming the Leipzig tide in extra time. A heaven rotation up front off Nukunku, Olmo, Szoboszlai, and even Mukiele continued to penetrate the box. Streich was forced to order six men back at times to keep handle the traffic in front of Flekken's net. Nkunku had the go-ahead goal on his foot in the 102nd, but stumbled trying to meet a Mukiele cross from the right.
As the first period of extra time, the two sides traded monster chances. RB keeper Peter Gulacsi was able to fingertip a Janik Haberer laser off the post the 104th. The ball fell to Ermedin Demivoric, who sky-hit an absolute sitter into the deep sits. At the other end, Schlotterbeck somehow managed to tackle away from a fully free Nkunku at 105+1.
Streich's Breisgauer did do an excellent job stepping up their efforts in the second period of extra time. Schlotterbeck carried forward bravely several times. The Schwarzwaldverein produced several nice designs off set pieces. Haberer struck the woodwork again with a hit off the crossbar in the 115th. It was actually the third near miss of Freiburg in extra time.
Höfler came narrowly close to awarding Leipzig a penalty in the 118th, but Stegemann ruled that the SCF defender toe-poked the ball away from Olmo before his trailing knee hit the Spaniard in the back. After sending off Kevin Kampl for dissent, the match official reviewed the scene via VAR replay and stuck to his decision.
Unfortunately, Freiburg captain Günter skied his spot-kick over the bar. Demirovic, after having missed the sitter earlier, struck the top of the bar. Leipzig were flawless from the spot, meaning a fifth round was not needed. Leipzig had their first trophy of any kind with a 4-2 PSO win.
|17||L. Kübler ↪86|
|5||M. Gulde ↪106|
|30||C. Günter (C)|
|8||M. Eggestein ⚽ ↪86|
|9||L. Höler ↪79|
|22||R. Sallai ↪79|
|11||E. Demirović ↩79|
|18||N. Petersen ↩79|
|31||K. Schlotterbeck ↩106|
|7||J. Schmid ↩86|
|19||J. Haberer ↩86|
|1||P. Gulácsi (C)|
|2||M. Simakan ↪113|
|27||K. Laimer ↪99|
|44||K. Kampl ↪69|
|10||E. Forsberg ↪61|
|18||C. Nkunku ⚽|
|33||A. Silva ↪61|
|22||N. Mukiele ↩61|
|32||J. Gvardiol ↩113|
|14||T. Adams ↩99|
|17||D. Szoboszlai ↩61|
|25||Daniel Olmo ↩69|