The Bundesliga is back! And for RB Leipzig, their hopes of a first Bundesliga title may have already gone after just one game. VAR came to the rescue to keep a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to mid table SC Freiburg from being a gut punching loss for Leipzig.
One Goal Each, But One Way Traffic
Manuel Gulde gave Freiburg a shock lead in the 34th minute against the run of play when he accidentally flicked a corner into the back of the net. Vincenzo Grifo whipped the ball in and Gulde's trailing leg happened to get a touch, with even him knowing nothing of it.
For Freiburg, who are chasing a Europa League spot with only 35 goals to their name on the season, they'll take it any way they can get it.
Leipzig in response continued to pour on the pressure throughout the first half, but really kicked it into high gear in the second stanza while chasing the game. Captain on the day Yussuf Poulsen finally leveled with a powerful header in the 77th minute, getting the monkey off their back.
Then in second half stoppage time, Freiburg thought they had stolen it. Robin Koch scored after a free kick was headed back to him near the penalty spot, sending him and his teammates into as much of a frenzy as possible in an empty, spectator-less stadium. However, VAR stepped in and correctly chopped off the goal for offside, bailing out Leipzig.
Leipzig Domination Goes Down In Vain
Ring rust was was ever-present and widely evident on the day for Leipzig. They wasted several clear cut chances, including one from Konrad Laimer in the second minute and second half chances from both Poulsen and substitute Ademola Lookman amongst many others.
In total, Leipzig tallied 22 shots with eight on target. And according to SofaScore, they created four big chances and missed every single one of them. Manager Julian Nagelsmann will also rue the 12 shots his team had from inside the box, only converting one, the header from Poulsen.
Despite Leipzig's rusty form in front of net, still a lot of credit must go to Freiburg's keeper, Alexander Schwolow. He stood on his head in the 90 minutes denying the likes of Timo Werner and Christopher Nkuku for two of his seven saves in an impressive performance. And in so doing, he earned the best rating for Freiburg on both SofaScore and WhoScored.
Leipzig dominated most aspects of the game. But they lacked the finishing required to win the game. More importantly, they lacked the finishing needed to challenge for the Bundesliga title.
Title Hopes In Limbo
After the draw and other Bundesliga results from the weekend, Leipzig dropped to fourth in the table and seven points below leaders Bayern. And with only eight games remaining, Leipzig have a tough uphill battle.
It shouldn't, though, be all doom and gloom. Leipzig excelled at many of their best qualities. They displayed sharp, crisp passing. And they showed a tenacity for finding the back of the net. That bit of ring rust just held them back from scoring a winner.
Nagelsmann and co. will undoubtedly improve as the season sprints to the end. In just their first game after a two month hiatus, they showed their usual sharpness, even on their one and only counter attack.
Besides, you simply cannot create that many chances with each attacker joining the party if you didn't put in a good shift.
This draw, unfortunately, likely has knocked Leipzig out of title contention. It's not that Leipzig won't win enough points down the stretch run to compete. They're certainly capable of it. More it's that they can't count on Bayern Munich to drop enough points for them to close the gap.
Nagelsmann summed it up perfectly after the game saying, "We put them under a lot of pressure in the second half and created some good chances" he said. "I'm happy with the tempo and intensity of the game, not with the result."
Just as they settled for a draw, Leipzig will probably have to settle for a Champions League spot this year and no silverware.