Germany: Bundesliga
2 - 2
(0 - 1)
J. Justvan (61), C. Klarer (90)
N. Nkounkou (33), A. Knauff (51)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15:30 Kickoffs: Darmstadt nick late draw off Frankfurt, Freiburg win shorthanded, BVB pummel Köln

The first set of 15:30 kickoffs in the 2023/24 German Bundesliga's "Rück-runde" literally had everything. Widespread protests across the Bundesrepublik against the new DFL licensing deal lead to match interruptions that ensured that none of the concurrent kickoffs finished at the same time. 

As of this piece's filing, Stuttgart and Bochum remains ongoing thanks to protests that delayed the start of the second-half for nearly 45 minutes. There was plenty of late drama in the matches that did wrap up around the scheduled time. 

Darmstadt was able to snatch a late draw against visiting Frankfurt while shorthanded Freiburg beat back a Hoffenheim comeback attempt. Heidenheim nearly upset Wolfsburg in a match that ended in a 1-1 draw. 

In the only conclusive result, Dortmund rolled over Köln 4-0. 
A dramatic late finish in Darmstadt saw Torsten Lieberknecht's last-place Lilies snatch a point over visiting rivals and neighbors Eintracht Frankfurt. A 2-2 draw in the "Hessen Derby" served as the only Bundesliga 15:30 kickoffs to finish on-time following widespread anti-DFL protests from German ultras mirroring those that occurred on match-day 15 of the current campaign. Dino Toppmöller's Eintracht squandered a 2-0 lead and reverted to conservative protective tactics perhaps a tad too early.

SGE trainer Toppmöller kept the exact same XI from last week's upset victory over RB Leipzig in place. Darmstadt's Lieberknecht, meanwhile, was able to insert some extra pop into his attack via two personnel changes to the squad that lost against Dortmund last Saturday night.  Midfielder/attacking winger Fabian Nürnberger made a long-awaited comeback from injury and took the place of Emir Karic. The SV gaffer also directly turned to a player his club acquired just yesterday. Hoffenheim loanee Julian Justvan was inserted straight into the starting lineup above Tobias Kempe.

Frankfurt's star-of-the-show in last week's win, French wingback Niels Nkounkou, came storming out of the gate once again. The 23-year-old immediately tested the SV defensive ranks with a wicked effort off a corner in the 2nd. Nkounkou recorded his second effort on target already in the 14th following some nice combination play involving Mario Götze and the newly acquired Donny van de Beek. Frankfurt effectively dominated proceedings until Nkounkou was finally able to snatch the opener just after the half-hour-mark.

Nkounkou stuffed home the 1-0 in the 33rd on an excellent attack charge spurred by Sasa Kalajdzic on a deep drop. The Frenchman followed up the sortie well, crashing in to polish off an Eric Junior Dina Emimbe cutback when Ansgar Knauff whiffed on the initial service. With ease and regularly paced beats, the favored Hessen guests kept up the attacking waves until it was time to head into the tunnel. Picking up right where they left off after the restart, Toppmöller's SGE doubled the advantage in the 51st.

This time Knauff would finish properly. Van de Beek and Ebimbe were both involved on the 2-0. Kalajdzic officially got his name back on a Bundesliga scoresheet by pocketing the assist. By all accounts, it appeared as if the larger Hessen club were about to run away with matters. Lieberknecht's Lilies  nevertheless furnished some immediate signs that this would not be the case. Newcomer Justvan set up SV striker Luca Pfeiffer in the 54th on a chance SGE keeper Kevin Trapp had to be on his toes to parry.

An error from Trapp in the 62nd enabled Darmstadt to pull a goal back. Nürberger pounced on a poor pass from the Eintracht net-minder. Pfeiffer then flicked on for Justvan, who slid the ball between the unsorted Trapp's legs for his very first Bundesliga goal. The match took on a totally different tenor after the 1-2. Pfeiffer actually had an excellent chance to equalize five minutes after Justvan's goal, but couldn't get the right touch on a quick 66th-minute cross sent in his direction. It took Eintracht time to get re-organized.

Gradually and through some tactical adjustments, Toppmöller's SGE were able to focus more intently on defending their reduced lead. The RheinMainAdler allowed their opponents to have more of the ball; trusting that the underdog Hessen hosts would have difficulty locating the right quality in the final third. This is indeed what transpired. The match flattened out amid increasingly choppy Darmstadt play. Lieberknecht's side only came alive very late, appearing again in front of goal in the 86th with a big chance off a corner.

Pfeiffer once again failed to convert at 90+1. Three points appeared to be in the bag for Frankfurt. SV defender Christoph Klarer, involved in the 86th-minute-chance, nevertheless had other ideas. Center back Klarer supplied a center-forward's finish at 90+6 after a Tuta passing error out of the back enabled Tobias Kempe the opportunity to set him up. Pandemonium ensured at the Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor when it became apparent that the Bundesliga's last-placed side would snatch up a point after all.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, there was an even insaner result at the Europa Park Stadion in Breisgau. Christian Streich's SC Freiburg charged out to a 2-0 lead against visiting TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the Baden-Württemberg derby. Pellegrino Matarazzo's Kraichgauer struck back to level the scoreline and reduced Freiburg to ten-men when newly re-signed defender Manuel Gulde was sent off on double yellows. Shorthanded Freiburg then shockingly took the lead back and earned a 3-2 victory.

A match at the Voith Arena on the BaWü border had similar sensational potential. Frank Schmidt's 1. FC Heidenheim nearly upset Niko Kovac's Wolfsburg, but saw two goals unfortunately disallowed. The fixture ended in a 1-1 draw with WOB attacker Vaclav Cerny and VfL defender Moritz Jenz (into his own net) scoring the only goals that would count.

In the fixture that did count as this set's biggest mismatch on paper, Borussia Dortmund rolled over 1. FC Köln 4-0 at the RheinEnergieStadion. BVB trainer Edin Terzic gave Jadon Sancho a start in his second match back with die Schwarzgelben. Sancho started on the left attacking flank ahead of fellow EPL loanee Ian Maatsen.

Sancho drew a penalty that helped Niclas Füllkrug convert the 2-0 from the spot. Maatsen managed to register an assist while Donyell Malen recorded a brace. Just as he did last week, Youssoufa Moukoko netted a late penalty off the bench. Despite the fact that Darmstadt picked up a point, Köln remain just above last place on goal differential.

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