Soccer

10-Man RB Leipzig Win German Cup On Penalties

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RB Leipzig won its first major trophy, by triumphing on penalties over SC Freiburg in Saturday’s German Cup final. The match had ended 1-1 in regulation after an intense battle.

RB Leipzig Cup Winners

Maximilian Eggestein gave Freiburg the lead just before the 20 minute-mark. It was a controversial goal, due to the ball having hit Roland Sallai’s hand before it made its way to the eventual scorer.

But the VAR found no intentional handball, thus the goal stood in spite of Leipzig’s heavy protestations.

The score remained the same well into the second half. Just as RB Leipzig was about to start its last half-hour offensive, Marcel Halstenberg was sent off for the denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity, committing a foul as his team’s last defender.

Freiburg seemed well and truly on their way to their first ever major trophy in club history, as they were clearly on top at that stage.

RB coach Domenico Tedesco reacted to the red card by bringing on Nordi Mukiele and Dominik Szoboszlai for Emil Forsberg and André Silva. As it turned out, 10 men Leipzig played better than they had for an hour with 11.

Of course, it was Christopher Nkunku, their goalscoring talisman who found the equalizer in the 76th minute.

The Bulls even had an opportunity or two to win the match in regulation, before it went to extra time, but that wasn’t to be.

In the added 30 minutes SC Freiburg hit the woodwork on several occasions, as their opponents seemed to have exceeded the limits beyond exhaustion.

Yet the men from Saxony had one offensive highlight at the very end of extra time.

Nicolas Höfler was adjudged by VAR to slightly have played the ball, as he tackled Dani Olmo in the area, the refereeing crew thus rightly rejected RB’s penalty appeal.

The winner needed to be decided by the dreaded lottery of spot kicks. All four of Leipzig’s takers scored, as Freiburg’s captain Christian Günter hit his kick over the goal and Ermedin Demirović hit the crossbar.

In spite of the fact that in recent years either Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund have won most DFB Cups, the majority of German neutrals are far from happy about their new cup winners.

They look at the way RBL was formed with scorn and disgust.

(They set up shop in 2009 by purchasing the playing license from local fifth tier side SSV Markranstädt.

The sponsorship of the giant energy drink company Red Bull has then helped the club establish itself in Germany and later on the European stage as well.)

Germans oftentimes tend to be traditionalist fans who reject reform, innovation and above all commercialization of the sport.

They accuse the club of having skirted the sacrosanct 50%1 rule, which prohibits direct private ownership of clubs.

But whatever the case may be, one needs more than just money to succeed in modern-day football in the way the Saxons have done.

It is appropriate to paraphrase Didi Hamann’s thoughts on the subject: “Those who hate RB Leipzig, can’t possibly love the game.”

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Denis Knezovic is a longtime football/soccer writer, as well as a published author.
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Twitter: @KnezovicDenis