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Freiburg take three points in Europa League opener

By Peter Vice   @ViceytheSS

SC Freiburg's return to European club competition for the first time since the 2013/14 campaign proved a joyous one in that the Badeners were able to take all three points against visiting Qarabag Adam. 

The Breisgauer were able to rush out to an early 2-0 lead courtesy of a handball penalty and a Ritsu Doan goal. After that, however, the German hosts mostly shut down and carefully managed the game. 
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Photo: Andreas Schwarzkopf, CC BY-SA 4.0
Freiburg became the only one of three German teams representing the Bundesrepublik competing on Thursday to take three points from their opening round group stage encounter on matchday one of the 2022/23 Europa/Conference Leagues. After Union Berlin fell at home to their Belgian league opponents and 1. FC Köln could only draw Nice at the Allianz Riviera, Christian Streich's Breisgauer bested their Azerbaijani guests 2-1 in a match that was frequently boring, but got the job done.


SC trainer Streich went for four changes to the XI that beat Leverkusen over the weekend. Roland Sallai (fractured eye socket) and Manuel Gulde (ankle capsule) had to remain out. The very same players who replaced the duo on Saturday (Woo-Yeong Jeong and Ritsu Doan) maintained their place in the lineup. Additionally, Maximilian Eggestein was preferred to Yannik Keitel and Michael Gregortisch was given the  night off via Nils Petersen in the center-forward slot.

The German hosts immediately poured forward. Eggestein and Doan were able to engineer some early chances. Five minutes in, the Breisgauer were awarded a penalty when Qarabag's Tural Bayramov was judged to have handled a ball inside the area. Vincenzo Grifo converted from the spot and the Badeners had their early 1-0 lead. Buoyed by this, the hosts proceeded to dominate proceedings over the next ten minutes.

At the quarter-of-an-hour mark, Streich's men were able to double their advantage. Doan continued his impressive start for his new club with an impressive bit of dribbling skill as he cut inside the area. The Japanese international out-deked his marker, moved in the center, and fired home an emphatic finish. The dream start was complete. Freiburg continued to dominate possession, but did take their foot off the gas pedal a bit.

Qarabag were able to pull a goal back as a result of this. The Azerbaijani guests gradually grew bolder and were able to capture more of the ball. In the 39th, Eggestein turned the ball over in his own area. A quick circulation among three players ultimately allowed Mark Vesovic to have a go from the half-right space. SCF keeper Mark Flekken didn't do a particularly good job tracking the effort and the ball found its way into the back of the net.

Freiburg didn't see the need to switch out of "cruise control" for both the duration of the first-half and much of the second 45. Most regrettably for all onlookers, Streich's men simply passed around leisurely and took no major risks after the restart. The game flattened out significantly, with only Qarabag generating a couple of shots on target. There was nothing attacking wise from the hosts until Petersen headed over in the 64th.

Substitutes and stoppages kept reducing the flow until the tempo practically grounded to a complete halt. Qarabag striker Owusu Kwabena missed his side's last best chance at an equalizer with a flash over the bar at 90+5.


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