By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Freiburg hold off Olympiakos to open Europa League with win

On a chilly autumn night in Piraeus, Christian Streich's SC Freiburg were able to hold off a dogged push from Olympiakos and get their 2023/23 UEFA Europa League campaign off to a perfect start.

Goals from Roland Sallai, Vincenzo Grifo, and Maximilian Philipp enabled the German UEL representatives to bang all three points in their opening group stage fixture.
SC Freiburg became the third German European representatives to get their 2023/24 tournaments off to a perfect start on Thursday evening. After Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer 04 Leverkusen emerged from their matches victorious earlier in the evening, SC Freiburg held off 2022/23 UEL group stage opponents Olympiakos Piraeus and secured a 3-2 win.

SCF trainer Streich made two changes to the XI that lost to Dortmund in the league on Saturday. Lead striker Michael Gregoritsch remained out injured. His replacement on Saturday - Vincenzo Grifo - took over from the start. Defender Manuel Gulde also had to serve a suspension incurred in last year's competition. Young Kenneth Schmidt took the place of the veteran. Streich moved wingback Lukas Kübler over to the right and reformatted the previous 3-4-3 into a 4-2-3-1.

The visiting Breisgauer survived an early scare when a turnover from Grifo left Olympiakos striker Ayoub El Kaabi with an empty net to shoot at. Defender Matthias Ginter came to the rescue of his team with an early clearance off the line. Shortly after the miscue, Freiburg were able to take an early lead thanks to a mistake from the hosts. Defender Nicolas Freire played an errant back-pass to his keeper in the 9th. Roland Sallai pounced to polish off the 1-0.

An end-to-end affair developed with both sides loosened up by the early goal. The German guests were able to withstand the pressure until five minutes before it was time to go into the tunnel. El Kaabi converted the 1-1 in the 40th. Freiburg survived another scare during a flurry in front of Noah Atubolu's net at 45+3. Very much against the run-of-play, a penalty deep into injury time allowed Streich's men to finish off the opening 45 with the lead.

Grifo converted from the spot at 45+7 after former Leverkusen defender Panagiotis Retsos stomped on Ritsu Doan's foot in the area. Olympiakos could consider themselves unlucky to be behind having generated several chances and even hit the crossbar once. The Greeks continued to press for the equalizer after the break and were eventually able to get it 15 minutes from the end of normal time.

Former 1. FC Kaiserslautern winger Konstantinos Fortounis set up El Kaabi's scorer's brace in the 75th. Despite the fact that they had created little offensively in the second half, Freiburg were able to re-take the lead once again. The subbed on Maximilian Philipp finished off the 3-2 in the 86th with a cheeky dummy move past the marking former Hertha BSC striker Stevan Jovetic after a corner bounced to him. 

The resolute Greeks attempted to equalize yet again and very nearly did so in the form of Jovetic. The Montenegrin could nevertheless only hit the side-netting on what was the team's best chance of the late push. Just like last September, the German Schwarzwälder were able to take all three points from their trip to Greece.

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