Dhe SC Freiburg has taken the momentum from the Bundesliga to the international football stage and celebrated a successful comeback in the Europa League after nine years. The Badeners defeated the Azerbaijani champions Karabakh Agdam 2-1 (2-1) at the start of the group phase on Thursday evening. Vincenzo Grifo from the penalty spot (7th minute) and Ritsu Doan (15th) scored the goals in front of 31,500 spectators for the Bundesliga leaders, who were then neglected at times. Marko Vesovic (39th) scored for the guests.
Freiburg coach Christian Streich had warned against the supposed underdog from Azerbaijan, after all, he has been a regular in international competition for years and just missed qualifying for the Champions League this summer. However, the coming games in Group G against Greek record champions Olympiakos Piraeus and against French cup winners FC Nantes are likely to be even trickier. It was all the more important for the sports club to put itself in a good starting position right away.
“We’re back” was written on a banner in front of the fan block. And the Freiburgers were not only back, but also right into the game. The first 30 minutes felt like it only went in one direction. After Tural Bayramov used an arm against Matthias Ginter and a tip from the video assistant, referee Erik Lambrechts from Belgium awarded SC a penalty – and Grifo confidently hit the bottom left corner. A little later, Doan skillfully pulled in from the right wing and increased the lead to 2-0 with a low shot.
There was hardly any relief for the guests – until the Badeners slowed down a bit. Vesovic suddenly had a lot of space in front of the penalty area and scored the connection. SC keeper Mark Flekken didn’t look very good with the shot in the middle, Agdam got braver. After the break, Flekken was there against Kwabena Owusu (47′) and two attempts by the Brazilian Kady (53′, 70′). Freiburg’s top scorer Nils Petersen missed a chance with his head (64th) on his debut in the season, but otherwise remained pale. Overall, the second half wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the first.
There was a moment of shock for the hosts in the closing stages: a duel between Freiburg’s Kiliann Sildillia and Abdellah Zoubir in the SC penalty area was checked but not punished (81′). In the 2013/2014 season, Freiburg were in the group stage of the Europa League for the last time, but were eliminated. Five years ago they failed in the qualification against the Slovenian outsiders NK Domzale. This time the Breisgauers want to spend the winter internationally. A first step towards this has been taken.