Lucas Höler seemed to run away, then Marcel Halstenberg grabbed his shoulder and stopped him, causing him to fall. From the 57th minute, RB Leipzig was down to ten in the DFB Cup final. SC Freiburg was 1-0 up at that point. It was perhaps the decisive moment in the cup final between Freiburg and Leipzig, because suddenly it started to work in the heads of Freiburg, as Christian Streich observed.
“Then the red card comes and then the situation is like this, you lead 1-0 as SC Freiburg against RB Leipzig and you’re one more,” said Freiburg’s coach. “And then one or the other player thought a little bit, now I don’t want to make any mistakes. A cross pass or something and then there is a draw.”
For the first time in their club history, Freiburg were in the final of the DFB Cup and suddenly the title was within reach. Everything seemed to be done, the fans of the Breisgau, who created a great atmosphere in the east curve, got louder again and the belief in a Freiburg cup victory grew more and more in the course of the second half.
What probably very few had expected was that the dismissal did not give the Freiburg team a boost, but rather woke the Leipzig team from their deep sleep, who seemed unable to cope with the pressure, especially in the first half, and acted very cautiously for long stretches of the game and had little to oppose the biting Freiburgers.
In the last 30 minutes of regular time, however, Domenico Tedesco’s team dominated the game, while Streich on the other side could only watch helplessly as his players got scared of making mistakes and the lead was closed gamble away
You could almost see them getting nervous as when would the next time such a great opportunity arise. Streich did his best on the sidelines to give the players the confidence they needed to finish it, but he failed too: “I tried and I think some people heard it, but it’s not that easy for the boys . You had something to lose at that moment.”
And that is the crucial point. While the sports club had the best chance of winning the title, Leipzig had nothing left to lose, put everything on one card and should be rewarded in the end. It was the case that Leipzig wasn’t just able to save themselves in extra time, but rather Freiburg was a little lucky to keep the draw, considering the shot by substitute Dani Olmo five minutes before the end.
In the extra time Freiburg then caught themselves again and failed dramatically three times on aluminum, so that it went to penalties, the rest is known. The fact that in the end it was Christian Günter who was the first to miss a penalty matched the drama of the evening from Freiburg’s point of view.
What also fitted into the picture was the reaction of the Freiburg fans, hardly anyone of whom had left when the defeat was finally certain. They rightly celebrated their team and above all their unfortunate captain. Leading up to the game, Streich had said it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they didn’t win and he was right.
Freiburg presented themselves as extremely fair losers who ultimately had less to lose than Leipzig, who after three finals in four years finally managed to win the cup. Of course, the people of Leipzig celebrated exuberantly in front of their curve, but in the end the image of the Freiburg team lingered in their minds, how they were celebrated on their lap of honor in the stadium, as if they had just won the pot.
“I can’t get angry anymore. Tomorrow and the day after because we lost, but I can’t make it today,” said a thoughtful prank. He said it was a long time since he was so nervous before the big game as he was before one in the Bundesliga, which is his daily bread and what gives him support.
It will probably take a few days before his players stop mourning the missed opportunity for a title and remember what they have achieved this season. Because from the summer, the small club from Breisgau, which showed its true greatness on Saturday evening in the Olympic Stadium, will be traveling internationally.