Freiburg’s second-string side draw in Azerbaijan to finish Group G undefeated

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Report: Lucas Höler needs surgery

Europe: Europa League

K. Medina (62), O. Kwabena (90)

By Ultan Corcoran   @UltanCorcoran

Having already qualified for the Europa League knockout stages, Freiburg came into this afternoon’s game with nothing to lose. A tremendous campaign in Group G has seen the undefeated Breisgau side finish first with a game to spare. Better still, Freiburg advance straight to the Round of 16 avoiding any potential challenge from clubs dropping down from the Champions League. While their Azerbaijani opposition needed to better or match the result of fellow Group G side Nantes, Streich had the luxury of being able to rotate heavily for the fixture. Only skipper Christian Günter remained in the line-up from the victory over Schalke, while Atubolu, Siquet, Wagner, and Weißhaupt were afforded starting berths.

Lucas Höler.
Lucas Höler. Photo: SC Freiburg

Flekken’s replacement, Noah Atubolu made a fine confidence building save on five minutes as Qarabag’s Owusu threatened. Freiburg made a nervy start as they remained pinned in their own box for much of the opening 10 minutes. The early intensity from Qarabag players snuffed any routes out from defence as Kady’s interception and run ended in a last-gasp block from Keitel. Freiburg eventually settled and grew confidence in doing so. Kevin Schade was chopped down on the penalty whitewash by Mustafazada while VAR intervened to award a penalty. Nils Petersen snuck the resulting spot-kick beneath the best attempts of Magomedaliyev.
Qarabag demonstrated greater attacking intent throughout the latter end of the half. A couple of decent opportunities sprung their way, while Owusu continued to cause havoc. The Ghanian forward was simply missing the clinical edge to finish off his side’s flowing moves. Any other threat to the Freiburg goal ended in an offside as the German club retained its 0-1 advantage at the break.

Günter was called ashore for Kübler before the restart. Streich undoubtedly with one eye on the Köln game this Sunday. Freiburg appeared to return the favour 4 minutes into the second half when Siquet sent Vešović tumbling to the ground in the penalty area. Fortunately, the decision was revoked when VAR spotted an offside in the build-up. Suddenly Vešović appeared to have scored seconds later, only for another VAR offside call to break Qarabag hearts for a second time. Freiburg the beneficiaries of good fortune once more.

Things went from bad to worse on the hour mark for the hosts. Qarabag centre-half Medina initially entered the referee’s book for a meaty challenge on Schade. That wasn’t to be the end of the drama. Once more arbiter, Alexey Kulbakov, was directed to the pitch side monitor. A second viewing of Medina’s sliding tackle made for horrible viewing, giving the Belarusian official no option but to brandish a straight red card. Schade was sadly unable to continue as Sallai took his place.

Streich brought on the cavalry in the final quarter of the game. Mattias Ginter and Woo Yeong Jeong replaced Siquet and Weisshaupt. Vincenzo Grifo also made an appearance inside the final five minutes. Keitel made another fine intervention to deny Owusu towards the death. Owusu’s headed effort finally bagged Qarabag’s goal in the first of seven additional minutes. This prompted a frantic close to the game as the Azerbaijani side needed a win in order to progress given Nantes’ impending victory in Greece. The game ultimately ended in a draw as Freiburg maintain their unbeaten record in their European odyssey.

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