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Leipzig edge Freiburg on penalties in German Cup final

Reuters SPORT
Published May 22,2022
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RB Leipzig defeated Freiburg 4-2 on penalties in a vibrant German Cup final on Saturday, bringing Domenico Tedesco's side their first major trophy despite playing an hour with 10 men at Berlin's Olympic stadium.

Freiburg's captain Christian Guenter and forward Ermedin Demirovic both missed their attempts from the penalty spot to seal a thrilling clash that had ended 1-1 after extra time.

Midfielder Maximilian Eggestein put Freiburg ahead in the 19th minute with an excellent low shot from the edge of the box, a goal which stood following a VAR review for a potential handball in the build-up.

Leipzig came close to equalising five minutes later after Christopher Nkunku's rebound from close range beat goalkeeper Mark Flekken, but defender Nico Schlotterbeck saved his side with an intervention inches from the goal line.

However as Freiburg fans began to celebrate, chanting and lighting up flares, Nkunku eventually spoiled their party with a 76th-minute leveller.

The 24-year-old France international, voted Bundesliga player of the season and beating the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland to the prize, bundled the ball over the line from Willi Orban's precise header.

The late equaliser poured life into Leipzig, who played with one man down from the 57th minute following a red card shown to defender Marcel Halstenberg for a risky tackle on forward Lucas Hoeler.

Both sides had chances to win near the end of normal time, while Freiburg twice hit the post and struck the bar in the extra period.

Leipzig, meanwhile, were denied a penalty for a foul on midfielder Dani Olmo after a VAR check in the frenetic dying minutes - a decision that earned already substituted Kevin Kampl a second yellow card for his protests.

Leipzig took the trophy home for the first time after they finished runners-up in 2018-19 and 2020-21.

The victory could have earned this season's Europa League semi-finalists a return to Europe's second-tier competition but they had already secured a fourth straight season in the Champions League through a top-four finish in the Bundesliga.

Freiburg have enjoyed one of the best campaigns in the club's history and, with Leipzig winning the Cup, their sixth-placed finish in the final league table earns them a return to the Europa League for the first time since 2013.

It also means seventh-placed Cologne will go into the Europa Conference League playoffs.