RB Leipzig advanced to the DFB-Pokal final on Friday as they defeated Werder Bremen 2-1 at the Wohninvest Weserstadion in their semi-final tie.
A close contest throughout, the only goals of the game would come in extra-time. Hwang Hee-chan gave Leipzig the lead early on in the first period, but Leonardo Bittencourt was able to equalize for Bremen right before the end of it. Die Roten Bullen would not allow the contest to go to penalties, though, as Emil Forsberg grabbed a winning goal near the very end to send his side to the final.
Leipzig will face the winner of Borussia Dortmund versus Holstein Kiel on May 13th at the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
Story of the match
The first half played out like plenty would have expected. Leipzig controlled possession, while Bremen sat back and absorbed pressure. What was somewhat surprising is that the hosts arguably had the best chance of the period, but Josh Sargent was unable to convert the opportunity.
Bremen thought they had been given a penalty kick right before the break when the referee pointed to the spot following a collision between Davie Selke and Nordi Mukiele in the area. However, the call was taken back after a VAR review.
Leipzig kept the pressure up, and they eventually came within inches of opening the scoring. A header from Willi Orbán hit the bar before bouncing back into play, and Mukiele seemed set to pounce on the rebound. That’s not what happened, though, as Jean-Manuel Mbom got to the loose ball first to acrobatically clear it away.
Substitute Yuya Osako then had a headed chance of his own moments later, but his attempt flew just wide of the target.
The woodwork would deny Leipzig once again in the 78th minute. A cross somehow fell to Christopher Nkunku, who settled the ball before getting a quick shot off from close range. The effort took a crucial deflection, though, and the ball rattled off the post instead of going into the back of the net.
Both sides came close before the end of regulation, especially Leipzig, but neither could find the back of the net as the contest went into extra-time.
Die Roten Bullen would finally break the deadlock just after the intermission. The ball somehow bounced to substitute Hwang Hee-chan in the area, and he made no mistake with the finish, calmly slotting past an onrushing Jiří Pavlenka.
Bremen would not go quietly into the night, though, and they equalized right before the end of the first period of extra-time. Coming courtesy of a defensive mistake from Leipzig, a back pass from Dayot Upamecano to Péter Gulácsi was hit way too short, which allowed Leonardo Bittencourt to latch unto it. He still had a lot left to do, but the substitute was able to round the goalkeeper before kicking the ball into the back of an empty net.
The game completely burst into life in the second period of extra-time. A cross flew right towards an unmarked Yussuf Poulsen in the area, but he couldn’t redirect his header on target due to how quickly the ball came to him.
Just as it seemed like the tie was heading to penalties, Leipzig managed to grab a winner in the final minutes. A long pass from Kevin Kampl towards the back post picked out Hwang Hee-chan, who then headed the ball across the penalty area. That’s where Emil Forsberg was on hand to convert from close range, sending his side to the final in the process.
A classic cup contest
This game certainly delivered for the neutrals.
It had almost everything. There was a clear narrative, as Leipzig pushed forward while Bremen dropped back and tried to hit on the counter. There were chances for both teams throughout, with Die Roten Bullen even hitting the woodwork on two different occasions. There was even some refereeing drama, as Die Grün-Weißen had a penalty decision called back following a VAR review.
In the end, both sides can be proud of their respective performances. Leipzig managed to do enough to get the job done, and they’ll now look towards winning the DFB-Pokal for the first time in club history. Bremen, meanwhile, put up a great fight, and if they can keep playing like this to end the Bundesliga season, then they’ll likely be able to avoid the drop once again.
All in all, it was a thrilling way for viewers to spend over two hours of their lives.
Man of the match - Emil Forsberg
The hero on the night, Emil Forsberg was able to make the difference despite not being on the field for most of the contest.
Only coming on in the 114th minute, the Swede didn’t do much during his brief cameo. However, he came up big when it mattered most, latching onto the ball in the area before rifling it into the back of the net.
The goal might end up becoming one of the biggest in Leipzig’s history if they end up winning the tournament, and it seems fitting that it came from someone in Forsberg who has done so much for the club.