Both goals came in the first half, with Maximilian Philipp giving Freiburg the lead, but Ingolstadt got a deserved equaliser through Darío Lezcano.
The draw might have taken their push for survival to the final day with Hamburger SV set to lose, but in a truly dramatic ending to their game against Schalke 04 they equalised and saw a Schalke winner disallowed. With 1. FSV Mainz 05 winning against Eintracht Frankfurt, Ingolstadt went down.
Judgement day for Ingolstadt
Ingolstadt came into the game four points adrift of both Hamburg, in the relegation play-off spot, and Mainz, a further place up. They knew that defeat would guarantee their relegation after two seasons in the Bundesliga, and even a win might not be enough.
Freiburg’s excellent comeback season in the Bundesliga had left them in fifth place before kick-off, with the potential to book a UEFA Europa League spot in their final home match, depending on results elsewhere.
After Florian Niederlechner’s double over lacklustre Schalke 04 six days earlier, Christian Streich unsurprisingly stuck with the same eleven. For Ingolstadt, Roger returned from in suspension in place of Max Christiansen in the only change from the draw with Bayer Leverkusen.
Tisserand and Lezcano keep Ingolstadt dreams alive
Surprisingly it was the visitors who started as the more assured side, even if they weren’t able to worry Alexander Schwolow too much. He saved an early shot from Marcus Suttner, but Lezcano struck over and Pascal Groß put an attempt wide.
Freiburg had to take the direct route in order to pose any threat, but it was certainly effective. A ball over the top from Marc-Oliver Kempf found Niederlechner, and there was every chance he would have scored if not for a vital tackle from Marvin Matip.
It was still against the general run of play though when Freiburg took the lead in the thirty-first minute. Niederlechner headed on a long ball to Philipp, who rounded a sluggish Romain Brégerie and slotted in past Martin Hansen. Although other results were going largely their way, Ingolstadt now needed to score to stay up.
They had done just that by the break though. Marcel Tisserand set it up by running through the Freiburg box, with hardly the threat of a challenge coming in. His initial chance was saved by Schwolow, but there was Lezcano to head in the rebound.
Ingolstadt’s fate decided elsewhere
Incredible waves of pressure came from Freiburg immediately after half time, but they couldn’t restore their lead. Inside the first 60 seconds Niederlechner had a shot saved by Hansen before he himself blocked the rebound from Janik Haberer. More chances went amiss soon after, with Niederlechner and Nicolas Höfler this time denied.
Ingolstadt survived that and soon started creating opportunities for themselves. Schwolow saved a volley from Suttner and a Cohen header, before Almog Cohen had another chance, only to shoot into the side netting.
After a quiet phase the game came back to life in the final ten minutes. A good header from substitute Pascal Stenzel after a cross from Christian Günter was saved by Hansen. Ingolstadt really started to push now though, with a corner not quite turned in by Matip, thanks in no part to Schwolow’s clearance, whilst Alfredo Morales and Cohen struck over and Schwolow again saved his side by saving a Groß shot.
A winner didn’t come, and the final act of Ingolstadt’s two-year stay was played out in dramatic late scenes at Gelsenkirchen. Hamburg equalised through Pierre-Michel Lasogga in stoppage time, which looked set to send Ingolstadt down. Indeed it would, yet they were briefly saved by Sead Kolasinac, but his goal was disallowed. It was a cruel way to go for die Schanzer.
A win for Hertha BSC against SV Darmstadt 98 means that Freiburg slip to sixth, but that would still be enough for European football next season. They have to play at Bayern Munich’s championship party though in their final game.