RB Leipzig have secured the DFB-Pokal for the first time in their history in what was their third final in the last four years. The Saxony side won 4-2 on penalties against SC Freiburg in the 79th edition of the German cup final, with the teams locked at 1-1 after extra time. Maximilian Eggestein fired SCF ahead after 18 minutes and it took until the 76th minute for Leipzig to equalise, despite having been reduced to ten men around the hour mark.
Both teams looked to make an impression early on in the game, throwing themselves into tackles and fighting hard to keep possession. The first chance didn’t arrive until the 14th minute though. Emil Forsberg forced his way into the box and tested Mark Flekken, while Nkunku’s rebound was blocked away.
Freiburg were more clinical down the other end. Christian Günter’s cross took a touch off Roland Sallai on the edge of the box, and the ball popped out perfectly for Eggestein to bury a low shot into the bottom corner (18’). Leipzig looked to respond quickly and almost did in the 24th minute when Nkunku pounced on a defensive error, but Nico Schlotterbeck was able to hook the ball off the line.
RBL were more in control of possession, while SCF were looking to counter. Willi Orban was unable to beat Flekken from distance (35‘) and Vincenzo Grifo had a volley blocked away (45+1’), but there wasn’t much more goalmouth action in the remainder of the first half.
There were no changes at the break, both personnel and match-wise; Leipzig continued to struggle to find gaps against a resolute Freiburg defence. Nkunku found a bit of space to shoot in the 50th minute, but again there was no way past Flekken.
Leipzig upped the pressure and SCF were finding themselves more and more pegged back, but then one rare counterattack changed the face of the game – on paper at least. Lucas Höler was in behind after Marcel Halstenberg had misjudged a long ball, and the Leipzig defender chose to pull him down as the last man, leaving referee Sascha Stegemann with no choice but to send him off (57’).
Freiburg were able to enjoy more possession now and a chance followed soon after the red card, with Sallai’s shot being pushed wide by Gulácsi (60’). Leipzig were still adjusting to their man disadvantage, while SCF looked a lot more comfortable and in control of proceedings.
When RBL were able to create a threat, the Freiburg defence were quick to snuff it out, like Schlotterbeck’s perfectly-timed slide tackle to dispossess Konrad Laimer on the wing (73’). Then somewhat out of the blue, Leipzig did grab an equaliser. A long ball into the box was headed across goal by Willi Orban, and Nkunku followed it in at the back post (76’).
Leipzig had the wind in their sails now and Flekken had to make good saves against Dominik Szoboszlai and then Benjamin Henrichs’ rebound (82’). Ermedin Demirovic’s header down the other end was too central to cause Gulácsi any problems, while RBL’s next chance saw Dani Olmo go tantalisingly close to snatching a late winner (86’).
The game went into extra time and now Freiburg were starting to make their man advantage count more. Demirovic was unlucky to see his header from a corner bounce back off the post (91’), while Gulácsi pulled off an incredible reflex save to push Janik Haberer’s powerful shot onto the woodwork, before Demirovic fired the follow-up over the empty net (104’).
With tired legs among their ten men, Leipzig began to sit deeper as the game inched towards a shootout, but there was to be one final moment in extra time that almost saw Freiburg claim victory – Haberer caught a volley from 20 yards sweetly, only for that too to rattle the crossbar (115’).
Penalties were therefore required to separate the sides, with the first three takers all converting successfully. Freiburg captain Günter was the first unlucky one to miss, failing to hit the target and handing the advantage to Leipzig, who clinically despatched their next two. The pressure was on Demirovic to score SCF’s fourth, but power over placement saw his effort hit the crossbar and bounce away to spell DFB-Pokal glory for RB Leipzig.###more###