Bundesliga roundup: Union Berlin and Leverkusen draw, Freiburg and Leipzig take advantage

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Bundesliga roundup: Union Berlin and Leverkusen draw, Freiburg and Leipzig take advantage
There was nothing to choose between Union Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen
There was nothing to choose between Union Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen
AFP
On a key day in the Bundesliga top-four battle, Freiburg and RB Leipzig took advantage after Union Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen played out a 0-0 draw, beating Koln and Hoffenheim, while Stuttgart beat Borussia Monchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt drew with Augsburg.

Koln 0 Freiburg 1

Freiburg continued their superb Bundesliga form by cementing their place in the top four with a 1-0 win over Koln. Victory at the RheinEnergieStadion means Christian Streich’s side have lost just one of their last 11 league matches.

The visitors started nervously as they attempt to seal a history-making qualification for the UEFA Champions League, dominating possession without creating opportunities.

Koln found themselves in the complete opposite scenario, with little to play for in mid-table and they used that freedom to venture forward early on. Linton Maina had the first big chance, seizing on an error from Mark Flekken to volley towards goal, but the shot-stopper recovered to thwart him.

Freiburg’s Dutch goalkeeper was in fine form moments later, producing a brilliant reaction save to deny Eric Martel’s well-directed header.

Streich’s men eventually gained a foothold and started threatening. Forward Lucas Holer fired towards the near post only to be denied by Marvin Schwabe and then nearly pulled off the spectacular just before the break, spotting the keeper off his line and attempting an audacious volley to lob him, but the keeper sprawled backwards to tip over the bar.

Each of Freiburg’s last six Bundesliga games saw a goal scored between half-time and the 60th minute, and this one was no exception as their growing momentum earned them the breakthrough. A neatly-worked corner routine saw Holer flick his header to the back post where Ritsu Doan was arriving to steer home a diving header from close range.

Steffen Baumgart’s men needed an improvement if they were to avoid a first loss since the international break, and while they enjoyed a greater share of the ball, chances remained hard to come by. Steffen Tigges nearly produced a spectacular equaliser with 10 minutes to go, turning onto his left foot before curling over the bar.

That was as close as the Billy Goats would come though, as they failed to win for a fifth successive home outing. It was a hugely important victory for Freiburg though, who geared up for a league and cup double-header against top-four rivals RB Leipzig in perfect fashion.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Lucas Holer (Freiburg)

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Union Berlin 0 Bayern Leverkusen 0

The spoils were shared in Germany’s capital as Champions League hopefuls Union Berlin couldn’t find a winner against a Bayer Leverkusen side who have now conceded just one goal in their last five Bundesliga outings.

The situation was very different in the Bundesliga when these two sides met in November, with Union at the top of the table and Leverkusen languishing in 16th, but a shock 5-0 win for Die Werkself turned out to be the catalyst for their stunning revival under Xabi Alonso.

Union still look set for a top-four finish though, and Sheraldo Becker made himself a nuisance for the Leverkusen defence from the off. His drive from distance within the first five minutes was an early tester for Lukas Hradecky, before he raced down the line to feed Jordan Siebatcheu, who couldn’t direct his effort on target.

As the half wore on, it became clearer that the sides were more willing to avoid conceding the first goal than to try and grab it for themselves. Florian Wirtz’s driving runs forward provided an outlet and occasionally gave the visitors a break, but they struggled to execute the required final ball.

Intending to keep their remarkable unbeaten home run going, Union edged the first-half opportunities, and Jordan was denied what could have been a first goal in 14 competitive appearances when Edmond Tapsoba slid in to intercept Janik Haberer’s cross.

The operator of Stadion An der Alten Forsterei’s famous manual scoreboard would have been hoping to have a busier second half, and it wasn’t for Union’s lack of effort that the scores remained unchanged. Aissa Laidouni’s volleyed effort fizzed just over, as did a curling shot from the ever-lively Becker.

Space began to open up for the visitors as the match reached its closing stages, and Union goalkeeper Frederik Ronnow was finally tested by Mitchel Bakker’s towering header, but the Dane stood up to the challenge.

Unable to replicate their unlikely heroics in the reverse fixture, Bayer Leverkusen nevertheless extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 14 matches, a streak which included their advancement to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals. Union, meanwhile, remain in the driving seat for a first-ever CL qualification, and their fate could be sealed depending upon the result of their vital matchup with Freiburg in two weeks’ time.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen)

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Eintracht Frankfurt 1 Augsburg 1

Frankfurt and Augsburg couldn't be separated
AFP

An own-goal via Elvis Rexhbecaj followed by an equaliser from Ermedin Demirovic meant that Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg couldn’t be separated, as both sides extended winless runs to forget in the Bundesliga.

Frankfurt’s hopes of Champions League football had all but faded long before kick-off, but Oliver Glasner’s side at least had the chance to end a dismal run of eight Bundesliga games without a victory against an Augsburg side in poor form themselves, with no win in six league outings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a defensive calamity which led to the opening goal in the 25th minute, when Rexhbecaj found the back of his own net, deflecting Aurelio Buta’s cross beyond a helpless Tomas Koubek to give Frankfurt the lead.

Augsburg’s response to that embarrassing twist was rather tame, giving Frankfurt stopper Kevin Trapp a routine first period. And the second half very nearly got off to a perfect start for Frankfurt, who thought they had a game-killing goal when Rafael Borre found the back of the net, only for the offside flag to cut his celebrations short.

Having drawn 1-1 in three consecutive home games, the last thing that Frankfurt needed was yet more frustration in their own backyard. As such, it was with a sense of inevitability that the Eagles were made to pay for their earlier profligacy, and Demirovic did the honours by expertly volleying into the bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the area just before the hour mark.

With Frankfurt looking suitably deflated, neither side carved chances worthy of finding the back of the net, as a forgettable afternoon for the Europa League holders fizzled out to a drab climax. The point extends Frankfurt’s winless run to nine Bundesliga games, while leaving the Eagles five points adrift of the European places. Meanwhile, Augsburg sit just two points clear of the relegation play-off place.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Ermedin Demirovic (Augsburg)

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RB Leipzig 1 Hoffenheim 0

Marco Rose’s RB Leipzig side moved one step closer to securing European football for a sixth consecutive season, as Die Roten Bullen arrested a run of three defeats from five Bundesliga matches with a much-needed triumph over relegation-threatened Hoffenheim

Having struggled for form in recent weeks, there was a fear that Leipzig’s dwindling cushion to the European chasers may start to deteriorate, should their results continue to stagnate.

Christopher Nkunku, who has endured a campaign plagued by injury, eased nerves and ensured the home side would lead at the break for the 14th time this season when the French international netted a stylish opener midway through the first half. Slipped through on goal by Emil Forsberg, Nkunku made no mistake in front of goal, slotting home his 13th of the season.

While they may have dominated the first period, wastefulness looked as if it would force Leipzig into the break without having found an opening goal. Despite their 1-0 lead, the home side’s attackers continued to spurn golden opportunities as the match progressed.

Mohamed Simakan could only find the side netting with a snatched effort from inside the box, whereas Andre Silva rattled the crossbar with a strike from the edge of the penalty area. Although the latter’s effort was somewhat unlucky, a twitchy Rose in the home dugout began to appear a more and more frustrated figure.

Ultimately for the Leipzig boss it wouldn’t matter, as his European-chasing side kept out Hoffenheim’s late efforts to see the result across the line. A gutsy performance gives Leipzig breathing space in the hunt for continental football, while keeping their chances of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League alive for another week.

European football is something Hoffenheim can only dream of, as their immediate thoughts are consumed at the opposite end of the table. Engulfed in a cut-throat relegation battle, Die Kraichgauer will now be looking over their shoulders with caution with just one point separating them from the drop zone.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)

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Stuttgart 2 Borussia Monchengladbach 1

Stuttgart were in need of a win
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Stuttgart eased their Bundesliga relegation worries with a timely first victory at home since February, as Die Roten edged out Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Stuttgart were in desperate need of a victory if they were to stay in touch with their rivals, but the fact they had failed to defeat any of the current top 10 sides this season made for worrying pre-match reading. That said, Die Roten were unbeaten in three in the league, and they were the better side in the first half.

After a quiet start to the game, it was the hosts who went in front when some neat interplay inside the area resulted in Waldemar Anton firing the ball on goal, with Serhou Guirassy in the right place to divert it home - his eighth goal of the season. The clever finish was referred to VAR for a potential offside in the build-up and, after a lengthy review, it stood.

With main marksman Marcus Thuram missing through injury, Alasanne Plea knew that much of the goal-scoring responsibility was on his shoulders, and he came close to drawing Die Fohlen level 10 minutes before the break when his shot, which was heading for the left corner, was denied by a brilliant save from the legs of Fabian Bredlow.

It was clear to see why Gladbach had only won once away from home in the Bundesliga this season, as they struggled to make any real impression against a Stuttgart side who hadn’t won at home since February.

The game appeared as if it was going to meander toward its conclusion, but a tale of two penalties ensured a dramatic finale.

First, Dan Axel-Zagadou handled the ball inside the area to give the visitors a golden opportunity to equalise, which Julian Weigl duly took. Then, just two minutes later, Tiago Tomas was brought down by Ko Itakura, who, after a VAR check, was shown a straight red card. Tanguy Coulibaly made no mistake from the spot to send the home fans wild and give his team what could prove to be a priceless three points.

The result sees Stuttgart climb out of the relegation zone, as the battle to avoid the dreaded drop edges closer to a thrilling conclusion, while Gladbach remain 10th.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Borna Sosa (Stuttgart)

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