Germany: Bundesliga
4 - 1
(4 - 0)
Union Berlin
V. Grifo (4), V. Grifo (6), V. Grifo (20), M. Gregoritsch (45)
X R. Knoche (10), D. Leite (19), S. Michel (84)
By Will Shopland@Will_Shopland

Freiburg burst the Union Berlin bubble

A Vincenzo Grifo 20-minute hat-trick looks to have burst the Union Berlin bubble, as the hosts fire themselves to second in the Bundesliga. Union Berlin looked far off their early season best in a dismal 4-1 defeat away at Freiburg as they fall outside of the Champions League places.
With the battle between Germany’s surprise packages set to end what has been a remarkable, but short-lived hinrunde, this match was certainly never going to be an early World Cup celebration. Both sides containing squads with minimal players destined for the tournament. As well as both sides aiming to get themselves in the Champions League places before the World Cup break. The Europa-Park Stadion awaited a classic.

Matchday fifteens hotly anticipated bout began as it meant to go on. Within the first four minutes, Vincenzo Grifo fired the hosts in front. After a VAR review, it was perceived that Christopher Trimmel’s hand was in an unnatural position. Union may feel as though the decision could have gone either way, but Grifo was always going to punish Die Eisernen. His spot kick cannoning into the top corner to give Freiburg the lead.

It was a lead that doubled just two minutes later as Freiburg looked to cement their place behind Bayern in the league table. A textbook counterattack by Freiburg blew Union away. Grifo latched onto the end of a careless pass and a quick one-two between Freiburg’s golden boy and Michael Gregoritsch left the Italian with an open goal to stun the visitors.

However, in the 8th minute Union looked as though they had an opening back into the game. Nicolas Höfler attempted to clear the ball, but could only catch Sheraldo Becker. Robin Knoche was the man to step up for Union, but his penalty bounced back off the post. Union Berlin were beginning to wonder what had happened to their early season form.

Any hope that Union had of turning this game around was slashed in the 19th minute. It looked as though they aimed to emulate their second half against Leverkusen the previous week, but in the first half here. Ritsu Doan proved too quick for Diogo Leite, who found himself tangled together with the Freiburg man. The red card was quick to come out and the subsequent penalty was dispatched by Grifo to claim his hat trick.

The misery continued for the visitors just before the break. Ritsu Doan collected the ball about 25 yards away from goal. The Union defenders flocked towards the Japanese international, leaving Gregoritsch through on goal. Doan found him with a neat reversed pass, and the Austrian clipped the ball over Lennart Grill to pour the salt in the Union wounds.

The only consolation for Union to take into the break was that the scoreline did not reflect that of the Leverkusen second half. However, the 4-0 scoreline meant that the second half seemed to be a frightful thought.

It would turn out to be not as frightful as they may have first feared, but still not enjoyable either. They would receive a consolation goal in the 85th minute as Danilho Doekhi drew a foul from Yannik Keitel. Sven Michel stepped up and sent Mark Flekken the wrong way. They may have been wondering what would have happened if Knoche had scored the penalty in the first half.

Nevertheless, it would be a comfortable second half for Freiburg, who looked to see the game out. The hosts having over 70% of the ball and largely with all outfield players in the Union half.

After their 5-0 defeat to Leverkusen, Union would have been hoping it was just a blip in form for their title hopes. However, it seems now that the beautiful bubble that Die Eisernen created has burst in the worst way possible. They have now put their Champions League hopes in doubt let alone their title hopes. Freiburg, on the other hand, find themselves 2nd in the Bundesliga table and their fairytale continues.

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