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Freiburg 1-1 RB Leipzig (aet, 2-4 pens): Tedesco's side seal first-ever DFB-Pokal triumph

By Guy Atkinson

Berlin, May 22: Ten-man RB Leipzig won the DFB-Pokal for the first time in their history after a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Freiburg at the end of a 1-1 draw in Berlin on Saturday (May 21).

Freiburg, who were competing in their first-ever major final, went ahead in the 19th minute thanks to Maximilian Eggestein's fine strike, despite a clear handball from Roland Sallai in the build-up.

Leipzig were reduced to 10 men shortly before the hour mark when Marcel Halstenberg received a straight red card for pulling down a clean-through Lucas Holer, yet they levelled in the 76th minute through Christopher Nkunku.

Domenico Tedesco's men had lost two finals in the last three years, but they finally got their hands on the trophy at the Olympiastadion as Freiburg's Christian Gunter and Ermedin Demirovic missed their spot-kicks in the shoot-out.

Despite a good start from Leipzig, it was Freiburg who took the lead when Eggestein superbly curled a shot into Peter Gulacsi's bottom-right corner from 20 yards, the goal given despite Sallai inadvertently handling the ball moments before the decisive strike.

Leipzig were furious the goal was not chalked off, but almost pulled level soon after when Nkunku clipped past Mark Flekken, only for a covering Nico Schlotterbeck to clear the ball off the line.

Tedesco's side were dealt a blow in the 57th minute when Halstenberg saw red after hauling down Holer following a long ball over the top.

They shrugged off their numerical disadvantage to pull level, though, with Nkunku prodding in at the back post after Willi Orban's header had looped over Flekken.

Demirovic and Janik Haberer both struck the post for Freiburg in the first half of extra time, while the latter thundered against the crossbar in the second half.

Leipzig were incensed when referee Sascha Stegemann opted not to give a penalty for Nicolas Hofler's challenge on Dani Olmo deep into extra time, despite taking a look at the pitch-side screen, with Kevin Kampl, who had already been substituted, given a second yellow card for his protestations.

They had more luck in the shoot-out soon after, though, with Gunter blasting over and Demirovic crashing against the crossbar to give Leipzig an historic win.

What does it mean? Third time lucky for Leipzig

Leipzig were determined to avoid a hat-trick of DFB-Pokal final defeats in the space of four years, and their dramatic triumph means they are the 26th different club to lift the trophy.

Aged 36 years and 251 days, Tedesco is the youngest head coach to win the competition since Fortuna Dusseldorf's Hans-Dieter Tippenhauer in 1979.

Nkunku shines again

Nkunku has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe after a stunning season, and he was at his best again here. The France international's decisive equaliser came from a team-high four shots, while he also made two key passes - a tally bettered by only one of his team-mates (Orban).

Halstenberg's blushes spared

No-one will be more relieved at Leipzig's triumph than Halstenberg. The defender put his side in all sorts of trouble when he received his marching orders with Freiburg a goal up. His team-mates roared back superbly, however, to claim the trophy.

What's next?

A buoyant Leipzig have a Champions League campaign to look forward to next term, while Freiburg will compete in the Europa League in the 2022-23 season after a sixth-placed finish in the Bundesliga.

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Story first published: Sunday, May 22, 2022, 2:30 [IST]
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