SC Freiburg 1-0 NK Domžale: Hosts fail to make dominance count more

SC Freiburg began their UEFA Europa League campaign with a 1-0 win over Slovenian side NK Domžale.

Nils Petersen scored the only goal of the game 20 minutes in, although he had a penalty saved by Dejan Milić soon after.

Domžale provided a stern test for Christian Striech’s men before tiring, and after missing further chances, Freiburg will be very wary with just a narrow lead to take into next week’s second leg.

Petersen strikes first blood but has penalty saved

German sides have a poor record at this stage of the competition in recent years, perhaps because it comes so long before the start of the Bundesliga season. Freiburg, who gave a debut to Real Madrid loanee Philipp Lienhart, are still three weeks away from their first league game, and understandably started slowly, however any concerns were soon put to bed.

They began to find a good channel down the right, with Pascal Stenzel finding Florian Niederlechner, who put his shot wide. A few minutes later, Tim Kleindienst, back with the club after a season on loan with 1. FC Heidenheim, found Christian Günter from the by-line. He could only hit his shot into the ground, but by luck it fell to Petersen, who opened his account for the season with typical ease.

He should have made it two just four minutes later. Niederlechner was cynically brought down in the box by Amedej Vetrih, however Petersen couldn’t convert the resulting penalty, allowing goalkeeper Milić to parry away to his right.

Domžale beat Flora Tallinn and Valur Reykjavík to reach this stage of the competition, and were not without threat, Vetrih being their most dangerous player. His best chance came between the goal and the penalty, as he just couldn’t quite direct head towards goal following a ball into the box from Senijad Ibričić, with Lovro Bizjak also lurking. He also had an early chance blocked by Çağlar Söyüncü, with another later saved by Alexander Schwolow.

However Freiburg looked to be mostly in control of proceedings, and although Mike Frantz and Niederlechner couldn’t scramble the ball in with a double chance three minutes before the break, they held on to their narrow lead up to the half-time whistle.

Freiburg left with only a fragile advantage

With rain starting to teem down on the Schwarzwald-Stadion there was a moment of light relief early in the second half. Ibričić fouled Petersen on the edge of the Domžale box. The referee gave a free-kick, then showed Ibričić a red card. It was a mistake though – he meant to give him a yellow, and quickly rectified the mistake.

Günter’s following set piece was then saved by Milić, with Niederlechner blocked on the rebound. The next chance also came from a Günter dead ball, this time a corner, with Söyüncü getting a clear header on it. However he was unable to hit the target with his attempt.

After a slow start to the second half, it began to grow back to life. Frantz had appeals for a penalty waved away, before Domžale countered and substitute Petar Franjić had his shot saved by Schwolow. A great lay off from Freiburg sub Janik Haberer then presented a great chance for Amir Abrashi, with Milić grabbing hold of it at the second attempt.

Freiburg kept up the pressure as the minutes ticked by, with a cross from Haberer almost turned into his own net by Miha Blažič. There was almost a controversial second goal when Freiburg took a corner whilst Milić was disputing a previous incident with the referee – he got back in time to prevent Petersen putting it in, but the Slovenians were not happy.

In the end Freiburg will be ruing not taking more of their chances or making the most of a tiring opposition. If they needed reminding, Franjić handed them a late reminder of the threat posed when the two teams meet again next Thursday, firing a late chance wide of Schwolow’s goal.