RB Leipzig on the verge of glory but still far from national acceptance | Bundesliga


It was the eventful Monday evening that everyone could have done without – a grating Eintracht Frankfurt, the fans of Borussia Mönchengladbach and, ultimately, RB Leipzig. While one Europa League semi-finalist, not quite fresh from a famous win over West Ham in London, struggled to defeat at Leverkusen with a draw, the other, far more surprisingly, stumbled one hour northwest. While this wasn’t the start to the week that the mainstays of the German terrace would have ideally wished for, it was far from what Domenico Tedesco would have also hoped for.

It’s the price of success, and you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Yet the inherent fragility of end-of-season hopes and dreams could not have been clearer on that early summer night in Mönchengladbach. Leipzig still have the best Bundesliga record of any team in 2022, a testament to Tedesco’s excellent work, but they have now been dragged back to the peloton by successive Bundesliga defeats, at the worst possible time. Freiburg had the opportunity to put pressure on their Champions League rivals by winning on Saturday and took advantage of the schedule.

With all their resources, and a team seeming perfectly calibrated for this kind of juggling act, Leipzig were unable to respond. Tedesco have made five changes since the semi-final first leg win over Rangers but his side produced a lethargic first half. “You can take the tactical board and throw it in the trash,” the visibly frustrated coach said afterwards. To see a team playing normally with such zest stripped of their usual dynamism is shocking, and that’s what we’ve seen here.

It is not just the rigor of Gladbach, anxious to impress after a disappointing campaign, which is pressing Leipzig. This unanticipated return, at least early in the season, of Monday Night Football (don’t call it a return) presented the perfect confluence of punch bags for ultras. After seeing the hated matches on the first day of the working week under the new television rights deal, fans were once again stuck. With police and security authorities too busy on May Day to deal with Sunday games this week, Europa League participants’ matches have been postponed to Monday – and the absence hasn’t really made the heart more affectionate German supporters. There were plenty of empty seats (and a handful of Leipzig fans in the outdoor section) at Borussia-Park and a banner in the Nordkurve, where Gladbach’s ultras gather, engaging Keine Akzeptanz für RB, Montagspiele & Polizeiwillkür – no acceptance of Red Bull, Monday games and police authoritarianism.

Leipzig's German defender Marcel Halstenberg acrobatically clears the ball.
Leipzig defender Marcel Halstenberg acrobatically clears the ball. Photograph: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

And yes, Leipzig remain a target of anger too, because even though they have imposed themselves in style across Europe on the pitch, German fan culture has not forgotten who they are or where they come from. There was a sea of ​​screeching Nordkurve whistles (as in real whistles with a pea inside, by the thousands) each time the visitors took possession of them, which was deafening at the start of the game. When the stadium announcer announced Gladbach’s goals – a confidently smacked opener from Breel Embolo and a typically classy double from Jonas Hofmann – in traditional call-and-response style with the home fans, they replied, “ draw” for Leipzig, even after the good of Christopher Nkunku. equalized in the first half. The message from the fans was clear: what they do just doesn’t matter.

It is unavoidable. Freiburg, Leipzig’s opponents in the DfB Pokal final as well as their competition for a Champions League spot, have refused to back the traditional half-and-half scarf for the showpiece, and none will be produced. Before that, Tedesco must find a way to bring some much-needed clarity back to his side ahead of Thursday’s trip to Ibrox, in which clear heads are a must. “We were too frantic to try to get the ball into the box,” complained Willi Orbán. Leipzig are prolific on the road but Gladbach frustrated them well with 10 men, Hofmann’s second claiming victory despite being shorthanded.

There are many things Tedesco cannot change about Leipzig. The image of him on the sideline here, pushing both palms down to call for calm, tells us he knows what he can do and what he must do.

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Bundesliga results

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Union Berlin 1-1 Greuther Furth, Hoffenheim 3-4 Freiburg, Arminia Bielefeld 1-1 Hertha Berlin, Augsburg 1-4 Cologne, Dortmund 3-4 VfL Bochum, Mainz 3-1 Bayern, Stuttgart 1-1 Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen 2 -0 Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 RB Leipzig

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Talking Points

Freiburg had put the pressure on their four main rivals by winning at Hoffenheim (and nearly ending the hosts’ European hopes) in a seven-goal thriller on Saturday. “It’s an incredible feeling,” said Lukas Höler, who nodded in the third from the goal line, “and the highlight of my career so far.” He could still have bigger highlights to come. SCF have plenty of opportunities to shape their own destiny, with the last two games against direct rivals Union Berlin and Leverkusen, with the Pokal final also to come. Christian Streich’s men can’t lose, really – all they’ll achieve will be a resounding passing.

Whether the Champions League or Europa League is the final prize, it looks like Freiburg are ready to step up a gear with their recruitment, with Bild among those reporting World Cup winner Matthias Ginter will return to the club when his contract with Borussia Mönchengladbach will expire in the summer. He will replace Nico Schlotterbeck, whose signing for Borussia Dortmund as part of the final part of their rebuild was confirmed on Monday.

Meanwhile, for the first time in just under four years, Bayern Munich and Dortmund both lost on a Saturday. It was suspected that it might be one of those rare afternoons for champions where Julian Nagelsmann posed for selfies with fans before taking his place on the bench before kick-off. Mainz certainly attacked the game with greater intensity and Robert Lewandowski breaking the Bundesliga single-season away goals record was really the only issue of note from a Bavarian perspective. On a similar theme, Hasan Salihamidžić had defensive work to do after the game, insisting the club still cared about sporting integrity despite the team’s trip to Ibiza ahead of the Stuttgart host on Sunday – with Felix Hertha’s Magath already expressing concerns over Bayern’s commitment. would be against his club’s relegation rivals.

Dortmund managed to lose their penultimate home game despite a hat-trick from Erling Haaland, which put them in a winning position against Bochum after losing 2-0 in record time at the start. Two strikes in the final 10 minutes by Jürgen Locadia and Milos Pantović, however (the winner was a third handball penalty awarded in the game), gave Thomas Reis’ side a famous victory and confirmed that they will be again in the Bundesliga next season. The players partied all night with the fans on Kortumstrasse. “It was pure emotion,” beamed Reis. “We have done a great job this season.”

Hertha were close to a certain safety after Lucas Tousart’s header put them ahead in Arminia Bielefeld – but a stoppage time equalizer from Joakim Nilsson, combined with Chris Führich’s explosive late scorer for Stuttgart at home to Wolfsburg, kept the gap between the Berliners and the Swabians to four points, with Stuttgart still the favorites to end up in the playoff spot, something Arminia continues to fight for.



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