0-1, min. 34, Niederlechner. 0-2, min. 41, Niederlechner. 1-2, min. 53, Suttner.
FC Ingolstadt 04 1-2 SC Freiburg: Niederlechner double sinks die Schanzer

FC Ingolstadt 04 1-2 SC Freiburg: Niederlechner double sinks die Schanzer

Two first half goals from Florian Niederlechner was enough for SC Freiburg to ensure that they would end 2016 with a victory and condemn Maik Walpurgis' side to see out the year in the automatic relegation places.

Alex Howell

A first half Florian Niederlechner double made sure that SC Freiburg would finish 2016 with a victory, as they overcame FC Ingolstadt 04 2-1 at the Audi Sportpark on Matchday 16 in the Bundesliga.

In a first half that Christian Streich's side dominated, Niederlechner scored two in quick succession to seemingly take the game away from Maik Walpurgis' resurgent Schanzer. However, Markus Suttner got the Bavarian's back into the competition with an early second half freekick, but the Baden-Württemberg side would hold on and made sure that they would finish the hinrunde on their return to the Bundesliga with all three points. Ingolstadt in the meantime, were condemned to finish the year in the automatic relegation places. 

Niederlechner comes up trumps

With back to back Bundesliga victories for the first time since last April, it was Maik Walpurgis' FC Ingolstadt 04 that started the game in the ascendency. Alfredo Morales flashed a volley over the crossbar, after a neat pass from Pascal Groß, but Freiburg quickly replied with an effort of their own as Caglar Söyüncü deflected a corner just over Martin Hansen's goal. 

Since a home defeat to RB Leipzig last month, Christian Streich's side have turned a corner and were unbeaten in the prior four games - including an impressive draw away at the Veltins Arena against FC Schalke 04 - and after the early Ingolstadt bright spell it was the Baden-Württemberg side that dominated large swathes of the first half possession. Their best early chances came courtesy of Florian Niederlechner, but on both occasions the Dane, Hansen, was able to parry behind for corners.

However when the next chance came Niederlechner's way, he would make no mistake and the 26-year-old fired the visitors into the lead from the penalty spot. Clumsy defending from Marcel Tisserand saw Vincenzo Grifo felled, leaving referee Sascha Stegemann no choice other than to point to the spot. The striker on loan from 1. FSV Mainz 05 confidently stepped up and sent Hansen the wrong way, as he placed the ball high into the top right of the goal, much to the disapproval of the Audi Sportpark faithful. 

Things soon got worse for die Schanzer, Ingolstadt, and once more it was Niederlechner who compiled the Bavarian's misery. This time the Freiburg man deftly taking down a Janik Haberer flick on, before slotting the resulting half volley under an on-rushing Hansen. That made it four in five for Niederlechner, who has been one of the stand-out performers on SC Freiburg's return to the top flight after a one year sabbatical in the 2. Bundesliga

After their recent up-turn in form since Walpurgis replaced the departed Markus Kauczinski, which included shock victories over RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, it had turned out to be a terrible half for Ingolstadt. Lukas Hinterseer, who was drafted into the team for Wednesday nights game, had been largely ineffectual as die Schanzer struggled to test Alexander Schwolow. The only really meaningful chance Ingolstadt could muster, saw the returning Matthew Leckie's goal bound effort deflected wide by Söyüncü - in what was a capable performance by the young Turkish defender, who was signed from Altinordu in the summer.

Game on in Bavaria

The 43-year-old former Sportfreunde Lotte and VfL Osnabrück manager, Walpurgis, recognised his tactical error and made change at the break as club talisman Darío Lezcano replaced defensive medfielder, Roger, in an effort to provide his side with more attacking impetus and to salvage something from the final matchday of 2016. History however wasn't on die Schanzer's side, as the Bavarian club have never come from two goals behind in a Bundesliga game. 

The half time substitution however immediately came to fruition for Ingolstadt and soon enough it was game back on at the Audi Sportpark. Markus Suttner it was, who provided die Schanzer with a lifeline. The Austrian international rather fortuitously sent his left footed freekick into the back of Schwolow's goal, despite slipping in the process. Incidentally it was Lezcano who was fouled in the build-up to the goal, justifying Walpurgis' substitution. Suttner's second goal of the Bundesliga season, after scoring in the defeat at Werder Bremen at the beginning of December.

Suttner's freekick made it eight goals from set-pieces for division strugglers FC Ingolstadt 04; an entire Bundesliga high, from a side that has only scored thirteen goals this campaign. Almog Cohen prior to Ingolstadt's lifeline had saw a side footed effort, similar to the one he scored in the victory over Leverkusen, saved by the SC Freiburg 'keeper, Schwolow. 

Freiburg had only one victory on the road, prior to Wednesday's game in Bavaria. That came at Bremen in October, but aside from that Christian Streich's side have struggled away from Schwarzwald-Stadion. However at the Audi Sportpark, they had defended resolutely after Suttner had hauled die Schanzer back into the game. The central defensive partnership of Söyüncü and Manuel Gulde dealt with the vast majority of the aerial bombardment that FC Ingolstadt sent there way. The former looking an ever more shrewd acquisition with each passing game. 

At the other end, Niederlechner was unable to secure his first ever Bundesliga hat-trick - Hansen this time came out on top and saved well from the burly striker at his feet. It would prove to be his last chance, as he was eventually replaced by Slovakian striker, Karim Guédé.

As the game drew ever closer to its end, Ingolstadt became more desperate with each passing minute to salvage what seemed an unlikely point. Die Schanzer almost had their equaliser late on, but a magnificent fingertip save by Schwolow kept Cohen's dipping volley out of the net. That stop made sure that SC Freiburg would make it two away victories on their return to the Bundesliga and that Ingolstadt would finish the hinrunde in the automatic relegation places, in what has been a torid first half to the season for the young Bavarian club.