SC Freiburg suffered a late defeat on the final day, away to Eintracht Frankfurt. Vincenzo Grifo gave the away side the lead just before half time. SCF finish the season in 5th, well clear of 6th.
Most league positions are usually settled before the final day of the season. That was not the case ahead of Matchday 34 in the 2022/23 season, though, as all nine games featured at least one side who were fighting for something, whether that be the league title, Bundesliga survival or a place in Europe.
That was the case at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt. With SCF once again harbouring hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, as they had last season, they were dependent on a favourable result in the game between Union Berlin and Werder Bremen to secure qualification. Meanwhile, the Eagles were also looking to finish 6th or 7th and end up in the European places.
Freiburg’s coaching staff made one enforced change to the team which beat VfL Wolfsburg last week, as Yannik Keitel replaced the banned Nicolas Höfler in midfield. Oliver Glasner made two changes to his Eintracht side, as Makoto Hasebe and Jesper Lindström came in for Almamy Touré and Sebastian Rode.
Lively opening stages
With over 50,000 in attendance, the match got off to a lightning start. A lovely solo run from Ritsu Doan and a 1-2 with Philipp Lienhart saw the Japanese international fire over the bar on six minutes. Seconds later, Lindström and Randal Kolo Muani created the first shots for the home side.
The first half was a watchable and even affair. Both sides looked to avoid the biggest risks but were versatile and confident on the ball. The two teams’ defences were also at the top of their game, meaning a curling Grifo effort which ended up in the arms of Kevin Trapp was the only other moment of note in the first half-hour.
Ginter off the line, Grifo finds the net
With eight minutes until the break and SCF in the ascendency, the hosts broke and created a big chance to take the lead. Mario Götze dribbled past Lienhart into the penalty area and fired towards goal from 11 yards – with the ‘keeper beaten, Matthias Ginter did fantastically to head off the line. A sigh of relief for the 5,100 travelling fans.
Minutes later, that away end burst into life. A Roland Sallai cross was flicked on by SGE defender Tuta to the far post. Where Grifo was completely free to head the ball home (44’). Despite a long VAR check for offside, referee Deniz Aytekin gave the goal and Freiburg had the lead.
There was another interesting moment just before the half for the referee to weigh up. Lucas Höler ran through the Frankfurt defence and was brought down by Djibril Sow. It looked as if Sow could have been the last man back, but Aytekin gave only a yellow card. The resulting free-kick was curled towards the far corner by Grifo from a good 30 yards, but Trapp fingertipped the ball away for a corner. As the game in Köpenick was goalless at the half, the live table saw SCF in fourth and qualifying for the Champions League.
Anyone expecting increasing pressure from Eintracht after the restart would have been disappointed. The Frankfurt front line continued to sit back and let the SC defence play without pressure. Höler was given a chance to double the lead on 55 minutes following fantastic play from Doan, but the striker was unable to beat Trapp in a one-on-one.
As the second half went on, Eintracht were struggling to find attacking impetus, whilst Freiburg defended hard and as a result were not able to break into the opposition half often. There were also one or two nervous looks at phones and the big screen at Deutsche Bank Park, to see how other sides were getting on. With 70 minutes gone, already-relegated Hertha scored a second at Wolfsburg to bring Frankfurt’s European dreams closer with a win. Glasner reacted immediately and brought attacking midfielder Rafael Borré for centre-back Hasebe.
Frankfurt turn it around
The game edged further and further into the Freiburg half as it went on. With 78 minutes gone, Mark Flekken denied Randal Kolo Muani’s free header with a wonderful stop.
Despite those heroics, Flekken was unable to prevent the equaliser just five minutes later. Once again, Kolo Muani rose highest from a cross and this time headed home. “He’s so, so tough to play against. That’s all thanks to his incredible quality,” Christian Streich praised the French international after full-time. At almost the same moment of the equaliser, news of Union Berlin’s first goal made its way around the stadium.
Both teams threw everything at the closing stages, but the better end fell to the home side. Despite Michael Gregoritsch’s 90th-minute effort being well-saved by Trapp, Dina Ebimbe fund the net from close range to give Eintracht the lead a minute later. Despite eight minutes of added time, nothing more could be done to change the scoreline.
“Until the 70th minute we had everything under control, but then we had too many players on the pitch who ran out of steam as they hadn’t played at that tempo for a full 90 minutes often enough. We were missing a bit of power and that meant we suffered a very very close but deserved defeat,” Streich summarised.
Despite defeat, the fantastic away end atmosphere did not dampen down after full-time. The players received huge amounts of well-earned praise for their performance this season, in the form of loud chants. SC Freiburg finished the 2022/23 season in fifth place, and will once again take part in the Group Stage of the UEFA Europpa League next season.
Photo: Achim Keller
|Eintracht Frankfurt: Trapp - Tuta, Hasebe (70', Borré), Ndicka - Buta (80', Touré), Kamada, Sow (80', Dina Ebimbe), C. Lenz (45', Max) - Lindström (59', Aaronson), Kolo Muani, Götze|
|Head Coach: Oliver Glasner|
|Unused Substitutes: Ramaj, Chandler, Jakic, Knauff|
|SC Freiburg: Flekken - Lienhart (72', Kübler), Ginter, Schmidt (81', Gulde) - Sallai, Eggestein, Keitel (81', Wagner), Weißhaupt (66', Günter) - Doan, Höler, Grifo (81', Gregoritsch)|
|Head Coach: Christian Streich|
|Unused Substitutes: Atubolu, Schmid, Jeong, Petersen|
|Goals: 0-1 Grifo (44', 1-1 Kolo Muani (83'), 2'1 Dina Ebimbe (90+1')|
|Yellow Cards: Sow, Buta, Aaronson, Dina Ebimbe - Schmidt, Eggestein|
|Referee: Deniz Aytekin|