Europa League: Freiburg misses group victory – Leverkusen completes perfect group phase

Too unimaginative at the front and flawed at the back: SC Freiburg missed out on direct entry into the round of 16 of the Europa League.

Europa League: Freiburg misses group victory – Leverkusen completes perfect group phase

Too unimaginative at the front and flawed at the back: SC Freiburg missed out on direct entry into the round of 16 of the Europa League. The Bundesliga soccer team lost 2-0 to West Ham United on Thursday and has to take the detour via the second round due to the away defeat. The goals from Mohammed Kudus (15th minute) and Edson Álvarez (42nd) made the difference. In order to push the English Premier League club out of first place, Freiburg would have had to win due to the 2-1 defeat in the first leg.

However, the adventure on the island, which the Freiburg team and especially coach Christian Streich had been extremely looking forward to, ended with a setback for the Breisgau team. "I have never played in a competition in the best and most expensive league, where they have by far the most money. It motivates us extremely to show that we small Freiburgers from the Bundesliga can play a good game here," Streich said .

His players didn't succeed. Only the first scene belonged to the sports club. Driven by more than 3,500 traveling fans, Nicolas Höfler had the first goal for the guests (1st). West Ham followed suit. The home team wanted to show a reaction after the 5-0 defeat at FC Fulham last weekend. Lucas Paquetá failed with a shot against the crossbar (5th). But ten minutes later, Kudus evaded his opponent Jordy Makengo and scored.

As in the first leg, the Freiburg team treated the Londoners with great respect - and were punished for their passivity. Despite the two-point approach, there was hardly anything going forward. On defense, the SC suffered some hair-raising ball losses. Jarrod Bowen almost accepted one of these gifts. However, the attacker was offside for the supposed second goal (25th).

The Hammers extended their lead before the break. Because Freiburg didn't get access, Álvarez, who was courted by Borussia Dortmund before the season, effortlessly increased the number.

With a goal festival by a B team, Bayer Leverkusen completed the first perfect preliminary round for a club in three years in the Europa League. Crowned by a goal from striker Patrik Schick in his starting eleven comeback after 408 days, the Bundesliga table leaders celebrated their sixth win in their sixth game with a 5-1 (3-0) win at the end of the group against Norwegian cup winners Molde FK.

Only ten teams had previously achieved the optimal result of 18 points in the preliminary round, most recently FC Arsenal in 2020 and the only German club, Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018. Bad omen, however, for the ambitious Leverkusen team, who have 20 wins and two after 22 competitive games this season Record a draw: None of the predecessors won the title in the end.

In a group that is, however, not very glamorous, Leverkusen's yield is considerable because coach Xabi Alonso always rotated vigorously. Against Molde, he even changed his team to nine positions compared to the 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga. Schick (6th), Edmond Tapsoba (22nd) and Adam Hlozek with a double strike (60th/71st) scored the goals, and Molde's Martin Ellingsen (25th) scored an own goal. When he came on as a substitute in the 77th minute at the age of 16 years and 204 days, Ken Izekor also became the youngest Leverkusen player ever to play in a competitive game. Eric Kitolano scored for Molde, which continues to play in the Conference League as third in the group (76th).

Alonso had only left central defenders Jonathan Tah and Edmond Tapsoba in the team. In addition to Schick, a player who had to wait even longer was also used. Niklas Lomb, actually the third goalkeeper, was allowed to play in a competitive game for the first time in three years. He last played in goal on February 25, 2021, also in the Europa League against Young Boys Bern.

The large rotation did not change Bayer's expected clear dominance. When Schick scored with his left hand from 18 meters, Lomb had not yet touched the ball. And when Tapsoba scored with a header from seven meters after a cross from Jonas Hofmann and the Norwegians also scored a strange own goal because Anders Hagelskjaer shot Ellingsen in the face, the game was virtually decided.

The scene in the 44th minute was emblematic of the fact that the victory could have been much higher, when a shot from Nathan Tella was hit off the line, Schick then hit the post and finally Hlozek shot past from three meters. After the break, the Czech scored – twice.