An very intensely fought DFB-Pokal semi-final ended goalless after 90 minutes at the Weserstadion on Friday night.
Three goals scored in added-extra time made for an exciting finish, with Julian Nagelsmann's RB punching through to the final courtesy of an Emil Forsberg goal at 120+2.
|Amadou Haidara (left) and Emil Forsberg (right).||Photo: GEPA Pictures/Gabor Krieg|
SV Werder Bremen's week began with a special summit meeting of the club's advisory board. After two days of deliberations, the Hanseatic higher-ups opted to allow long-time trainer Florian Kohfeldt to remain in charge. After making an initial statement that seemed to imply Kohfeldt had a job guarantee through the conclusion of the season, SV sporting director Frank Baumann equivocated.
Baumann noted that while DFB semi-final opponents RB Leipzig didn't need to be "blown out of the stadium" on Friday evening, the board closely eyed the overall performance of the team. Although the 38-year-old trainer insisted in his pre-match remarks that he had not instructed his team to play for him specifically, those taking the pitch surely knew what was at stake. A disappointing loss would spell the end for their coach.
A 5-3-2 diamond with Christian Groß occupying the sweeper position held a power-packed Julian Nagelsmann 5-4-1 at bay for much of the first half. Leipzig won the possession battle and got significantly more efforts on goal during the first 30 minutes, but Bremen keeper Jiri Pavlenka really wasn't tested. Werder's first chance absolutely should have been the 1-0. American striker Josh Sargent, once again playing as a deep ten, spurned a gilt-edge chance from close range at the half-hour mark.
The hosting Hanseaten thought that they had been gifted another chance to score shortly before the break. At full speed, Leipzig's Nordi Mukiele appeared to push SV striker Davie Selke down on the left edge of the penalty area. Selke oddly celebrated match official Manuel Gräfe's decision to award the penalty as if a goal had already been scored. VAR official Bibiana Steinhaus and the Kölner Keller nevertheless detected simulation in Selke's fall. After reviewing the play personally, Gräfe reversed the decision. The ref declined to book Selke for the dive.
Nagelsmann's rote Bullen took complete control after the restart, finding themselves very unlucky not to close the game out in regular time. Mukiele hot the post in the 52nd while Christopher Nkunku banged the aluminum again thirteen minutes later. On the latter play, Jean-Manuel Mbom cleared the rebound artistically off the line with Mukiele lurking. Bremen several late scares. Pavlenka tipped a hard deflected effort from Nkunku off the bar in the 72nd. Pavlenka would also execute an impressive save on a header from sub Yussuf Poulsen at 90+3.
The favored visitors may not have found the back of the net during a furious final few minutes of regular time, but did so almost immediately once the extra period began. A Theodor Gebre Selassie tackle away led to the ball fortunately falling to Hee-Chan Hwang's feet in the 92nd. The South Korean attacker made no mistake on the finish and Bremen appeared broken with precious little time remaining. Selke had to be subbed off one minute later. It looked as if the hosts, and possibly their coach, were finished.
A Dayot Upamecano whiff on a clearance, however, allowed the Hasnseaten a most improbable way back into the match. SV sub Leonardo Bittencourt collected the ball and did extremely well to size up his prospects and finish from an acute angle. Sensationally, the score stood 1-1 at 105+1. Both teams continued to fight hard for the final 15 minutes. Bremen began to fade late on, however, and Kohfeldt with a time-killing sub in the 119th. Leipzig still managed to snatch the winner at the absolute last moment.
Hwang headed a Kevin Kampl cross to the onrushing Emil Forsberg at 120+2. On the absolute last play of the game, RB secured passage to their second DFB-Pokal final in the club's very short history. Die roten Bullen attained their first final after the 2018/19 campaign. Werder made history on this day by merely playing in their 23rd DFB-Pokal semi-final, but the team has still now lost eight consecutive matches on the trot.