Freiburg football gods disappear as Champions League dream dissolves | Bundesliga

Jit should have been the day Freiburg made all their dreams come true. Sitting in fourth place Bundesliga, with rivals RB Leipzig having suffered a terrible week of domestic defeat and European disappointment, they were ready – with the sun up and their still brand new Stadion Europa-Park filled to capacity of almost 35,000, they were ready to celebrate. “It was actually perfectly arranged by the football gods,” Badische Zeitung’s Florian Schmieder wrote.

Enter Union Berlin, a club that inspires feelings of great affection off the pitch but is brutally realistic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Urs Fischer has done an incredible job with Union, making them unquestionably the best side in the capital on a relatively shoestring budget. Still, football romance stories are meant to be beautiful mayhem and, in a sporting sense, Union thrives on command. As a club, they are the dream of many neutrals. As a team, they are the stuff of many opponents’ worst nightmares.

They were certainly the people of Friborg on Saturday afternoon. The carnival almost turned into a wake as the Union was ruthlessly efficient. They had relatively little ball but propelled by a sensational first-half display from Sheraldo Becker, they couldn’t be stopped. Becker’s teasing cross was placed on a post by Maxi Eggestein for Grischa Prömel to tap first. An even better delivery from the same player was emphatically led by Christopher Trimmel for number two and Becker himself jumped on a misjudgment from Nico Schlotterbeck to go solo and smash from an angle, giving Union a 3 lead. -0 at halftime. They sat in defense in exemplary fashion and parried Freiburg apart on the counter almost at will.

Christian Streich’s side had their bad luck, with a potential Lucas Höler equalizer at 1-0 ruled out in a review for a handball, which looked borderline at best. Streich being Streich, he didn’t attempt to hide behind the VAR’s dismay although he admitted it puzzled him (“maybe I’m visually impaired but removing this lens is madness”), following his anger on the sideline at the time. “We defended badly as a group, he admitted, and it’s not acceptable at this level.”

Almost inevitably, Leipzig took advantage, stamping out their Europa League frustrations with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Augsburg to move up to fourth place. The feeling now is that Freiburg’s luck has passed. On the last day they should win in Leverkusen – although Die WerkselfThird-place Leipzig and a return to the Champions League with a thrilling 4-2 win at Hoffenheim could raise hopes of a pre-holiday relaxation – while Leipzig lost to Arminia Bielefeld.


— 1. FC Union Berlin (@fcunion_en) May 7, 2022


After a weekend in which the Bundesliga was full of unforeseen events, perhaps it should not be ruled out. Saturday also saw thousands of Cologne fans on the pitch after their final home game of the campaign to celebrate their side’s season, despite a deflating home loss to Wolfsburg. “I don’t feel like partying today,” said their coach Steffen Baumgart, “but when I look at the board you can see me smiling inside.” The day started with the away chance of a Champions League spot in front of a sold-out Rhein-Energie Stadion. It ended with at least one Europa Conference League spot secured and the locals were grateful for that.

That, in time, should be where Freiburg’s heads are. Their fans warmly welcomed them full time despite the disappointment. It’s been a magnificent campaign well above par, in a new stadium with a great future to write – and perhaps more so on Saturday week, against Leipzig in the DfB Pokal final. It was a major setback, but the season is far from over.

Union Berlin's Sheraldo Becker celebrates with Taiwo Awoniyi (left) and Grischa Proemel (centre) after scoring the third goal against Freiburg.
Union Berlin’s Sheraldo Becker celebrates with Taiwo Awoniyi (left) and Grischa Proemel (centre) after scoring the third goal against Freiburg. Photography: Markus Gilliar/Getty Images

Perhaps there was also recognition of Union’s success. This has ensured that they will be playing European football again next season, probably a level above this season in the Europa Conference League, and certainly in – irony of ironies – Olympiastadion again. That they did it after losing the iconic Max Kruse in January makes it even more of a coup. It was a typical example of the kind of discipline and structure that made them so respected.

Streich will continue to be respected and loved too, no matter how this season ends. Freiburg was on the verge of achieving the near-impossible and even if the stumble hurts, many will be grateful to this team simply for making us dream. Few people would blame him for the silverware to accompany the storylines with which his team delighted us.

Bochum 2-1 Arminia Bielefeld, Hertha Berlin 1-2 Mainz, Hoffenheim 2-4 Bayer Leverkusen, Greuther Furth 1-3 Borussia Dortmund, Freiburg 1-4 Union Berlin, Cologne 0-1 Wolfsburg, RB Leipzig 4-0 FC Augsburg, Bayern Munich 2-2 Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Mönchengladbach


Quick guide

Bundesliga results


Bochum 2-1 Arminia Bielefeld, Hertha Berlin 1-2 Mainz, Hoffenheim 2-4 Bayer Leverkusen, Greuther Furth 1-3 Borussia Dortmund, Freiburg 1-4 Union Berlin, Cologne 0-1 Wolfsburg, RB Leipzig 4-0 FC Augsburg, Bayern Munich 2-2 Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Monchengladbach

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Talking points

Union neighbors Hertha could have made it to safety by beating Mainz in front of a busy Olympiastadion. Instead, Stefan Bell’s late header left them hanging on the outcome of Stuttgart’s game at Bayern Munich to see if they still had a chance to drop into the relegation playoff spot or not. Felix Magath had already had his say on Bayern’s previous trip to Ibiza, as discussed last week (“As a professional, what I consider myself”, he said after the match in Mainz, ‘I’m preparing for the worst-case scenario’) and his concerns were at least partially realised. Portuguese teenager Tiago Tomás scored a brilliant opener and despite Bayern returning to the top, Sasa Kalajdžić’s header earned a point to Pellegrino Materazzo’s side All this means that if Stuttgart beat Cologne on Saturday and Hertha lost to Borussia Dortmund, it would be the Berliners in the playoffs, given their much worse goal difference. Stuttgart also mean Arminia Bielefeld are almost certainly relegated after Friday’s late loss at Bochum.

Bayern received and celebrated the Bundesliga title at the end of a strange afternoon, in which they all stared out to sea as Niklas Süle sat on the bench for the first hour (“de many coaches didn’t give him a minute,” retorted Julian Nagelsmann in reference to Süle’s imminent departure) and Kingsley Coman were sent off at the last minute of added time for hitting Konstantinos Mavropanos.

The Meisterschale trophy is awarded to Manuel Neuer.
The Meisterschale trophy is awarded to Manuel Neuer. Photography: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

It’s likely either Stuttgart or Hertha will face surging Hamburg at the end of Bundesliga Season 2 in what would be a titanic playoff. It won’t be Schalke, however, who sealed a return to the top flight at the first attempt with a thrilling comeback from two down to beat HSV’s city rivals St Pauli. Powered by second-tier cheat code Simon Terrode, who scored twice to take his tally to 29 for the season, Die KonigsblauenThe moving celebration from on the pitch with the full-time fans underlined exactly the pressure they had been under to fulfill the brief.

Dortmund therefore has the revierderby to be hoped for again in 2022-23, and they can’t wait for next season to begin, despite finishing second in a 3-1 win at Greuther Fürth. All the talk projected in advance, with new sporting director Sebastian Kehl’s pre-match statement that he “assumed” Marco Rose would still be head coach next season, naturally jumped on it (Kehl has then downplayed that), while this week should see the departure of Erling Haaland and Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg have been confirmed as his replacement.

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