SC Freiburg moved into easy reach of Europa League qualification contention on Tuesday with a comfortable 2-1 win over feeble Hertha Berlin at the Schwarzwald-Stadion.
Second-half strikes from Vincenzo Grifo and Nils Petersen ensured that Vedad Ibisevic’s penalty equaliser amounted to nothing, moving the Breisgau-Brasilianer just one point adrift of VfL Wolfsburg in the hotly-contested Europa League qualifying spot.
Freiburg, who came into the match four points above Hertha, had the beating of their debilitated visitors across the pitch in the first half. They were ruthless in their attack, but could not find the net.
Hertha were equally frustrated going forwards as Freiburg’s resolute defending restricted them to only a single shot on goal.
The second half started in much the same vain as Die Alte Dame, who were without eight of their usual first-team players, whimpered into submission.
Dodi Lukebakio thought he had put the visitors ahead early in the half when he rifled a beautiful strike into the top corner from distance. Following a brief look at the VAR monitor, referee Tobias Stieler waved the goal off and brandished a yellow card in the direction of Vladimir Darida for a foul in the build-up.
Hertha looked shellshocked from then on.
Grifo found the breakthrough just beyond the hour mark when his curling free-kick effort caught Norwegian ‘keeper Rune Jarstein off guard and snuck in off the post, despite a heavy hand from the Hertha shot-stopper.
Bosnian Ibisevic buried a penalty to bring the scores level, but, less than five minutes later, poor distribution from Jarstein saw Darida caught in possession by Petersen, who powered the ball beyond the hapless goalkeeper.
Takeaways from the match
Dedryck Boyata is much-needed
The most notable change to the side from last week was the omission of Dedryck Boyata, who was out with a suspension following a straight red card against Eintracht Frankfurt. When on the pitch, Hertha have conceded just three times in six matches.
Since his dismissal on Saturday, Die Alte Dame have allowed six goals in 135 minutes of football. His presence commands the Hertha defence, establishes order and shape and he is a superb ball-player.
Freiburg should not be written out of Europe yet
Although obvious points-wise, Freiburg look to be safe bets to not only reach the Europa League qualifying stages, but continue on to the group stages.
They were very well organised on Tuesday, and, despite Christian Streich’s men failing to provide a clinical touch for most of the game, they looked mightily good in front of goal.
In what was a relatively poor game, Italian Grifo shone in the midfield. As well as scoring the opening goal through a technically excellent free-kick, the 27-year-old created opportunities aplenty for his teammates – none of whom converted.