Last time Freiburg played Greuther Fürth they ran out comfortable winners with a 5-2 scoreline. Since then Fürth have obviously learned some lessons from that defeat. It was a must win game for Freiburg but then with so few games left to play and the situation at the top of the table they all are at this point. With 1.FCN and Leipzig both having won at the weekend losing or even drawing simply wasn’t an option. Winning would also mean extending their six wins in a row to seven. On that count it’s fitting then that Niederlechner would score the first goal given he wears number seven.
Interestingly enough former Freiburg player Sebastian Freis scored in the reverse of the fixture as well, though his goal was pretty meaningless then given that Freiburg were 4-0 up at the time. It certainly wasn’t meaningless this time round, he got the equaliser. Given the result last time I was sure this one would turn out to be a relatively entertaining encounter. What I hadn’t counted on was Freiburg taking such an early lead. Of course it turned out to a little too good to be true but they got the three points in the end. I know Christian Streich isn’t entirely happy with the result and you can see why but that goal is still awesome, just one minute and 38 seconds. Florian Niederlechner certainly making his presence felt after his return from suspension. It wasn’t the first action in the game though, that was a free kick a mere seven seconds in, taken by Vincenzo Grifo of course. As for the goal Maximilian Philipp gets the credit for the assist though his touch looked a little more lucky than deliberate. Either way Niederlechner got the ball, managed to keep his footing and put it through the keeper’s legs. I’m guessing that wasn’t part of Fürth’s master plan.
Despite the very quick opening goal neither keeper had a great deal to do in the opening ten minutes. Schwolow didn’t have a save to make until 15 minutes in when Fürth made their first attack. Schwolow tipped Stiepermann’s shot over the bar. Freiburg kept them busy chasing the ball to be able to put anything together before then. To Fürth’s credit they didn’t lose their composure and they didn’t allow Freiburg any real chances either. Freiburg’s next chance came in the 21st minute when Philipp almost got on the other end of Grifo’s corner. A few minutes later Fürth got their equaliser, Sebastian Freis creating the opportunity for himself and then putting the ball past a helpless Schwolow. This no doubt was part of their plan, staying cool and not letting Freiburg get to them. Freis saw his chance and he took it.
The next few minutes were fairly uneventful but there was this nice little improvised save from Schwolow:
Things continued in much the same manner, a few chances for both teams and possession changing hands fairly quickly. The next goal could realistically have come from either team but it was Freiburg who scored next, Maximilan Philipp getting himself a very nice goal indeed. For the first goal Philipp provided him with the assist and in return here Niederlechner along with Frantz managed to help him out. So Freiburg went into the break with a 2-1 lead, little of note happened between Philipp’s goal and the end of the half. Apart from a dangerous looking ball into the box which was adequately dealt with by Höfler. The resulting corner proved no problem at all. Overall it proved to be a most entertaining first half with plenty going on and the game moving at a nice pace. Though Fürth were a little too close for comfort and would remain so for the rest of the game.
They were the better team at the start of the second half, making life a little uncomfortable for Freiburg. One such moment occurred in the 49th minute when Schwolow was left scrambling for the ball and Fürth almost got themselves a free shot on goal before Höfler took care of it. Unfortunately it wasn’t the end of the trouble. Just a minute later a not so good clearance from Grifo gifted the ball to Zulj who without hesitation put it past Schwolow. With the game perhaps slipping away from Freiburg Christian Streich prepared to resort to a tried and trusted method, bringing on the ever reliable Nils Petersen. As it turned out they didn’t need him because Vincenzo Grifo making up for his earlier error scored the winner just eight minutes later. Maybe Petersen’s so lucky you just have to think about him and you get a goal. It was partly due to luck that Grifo scored anyway, he took advantage of an unlucky deflection and the rest was his usual ice cold ruthlessness. Picking up on the mistake he wasted no time in taking his shot and getting the ball past two defenders and a helpless Sebastian Mielitz. From that point on it was destined to be a repeat of the KSC game, just holding on until the final whistle. They did get a few chances to increase their lead, notably Niederlechner got a great chance in the 60th minute in a move which mirrored his goal in the first half, this time however he couldn’t take advantage of it. Fürth however were still by far the better team and had plenty of chances of their own to level the score. One thing’s for certain the remainder of the second half did not make comfortable viewing.
Once again it was a case of Schwolow to the rescue, preserving their lead with this excellent save in the 65th minute:
It wasn’t Schwolow who saved them a few minutes later but the post because he was well beaten, another bit of luck there. It wasn’t for lack of trying that Fürth didn’t get their equaliser, had they done so you can’t deny they would have deserved it. At the other end Petersen had a great opportunity to put the game beyond Fürth’s reach but like Niederlechner he couldn’t take advantage of it. He should have done but he didn’t, it’s normally the kind of thing he’d have no trouble with. After bringing on Harvard Nielsen for Mike Frantz Freiburg then decided to play it safe and bring on defender Marc Torrejon to replace goalscorer Florian Niederlechner. By this point it was more a case of protecting their lead rather than going for another goal. Schwolow made another excellent contribution to doing so in the 81st minute with these two saves:
Fürth continued their search for an equaliser but luckily most of their attempted crosses and shots were off target in the final few minutes. Freiburg for their part were committed to defending with Petersen upfront alone mostly. Just 30 odd seconds or so before the final whistle Petersen and Abrashi had the chance to make it 4-2 but Petersen’s pass was a little under-hit. And then that was that, after two minutes of extra time it was finally over. Christian Streich whilst no doubt glad of getting the three points was not a happy man at the final whistle, the complete lack of reaction from him at the end of the game made his feelings perfectly clear. As did his very short post-match interview (if you can call it that) not long afterwards, for once I had no trouble understanding him. He said that Fürth were the better team and that Freiburg were lucky to win, which is true. They’re going to need to do much better next week against St Pauli, that much is obvious. It’s not just him being a perfectionist, he’s right. They can’t slack off now or take anything for granted. With six games left and the top of the table so tight nothing can be taken for granted.