RB Leipzig Beat SC Freiburg To Win Historic First DFB Pokal Title
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History has been made in front of 74,322 at Berlin’s Olympiastadion as RB Leipzig has won the DFB Pokal for the first time in history. A cup victory will also have some significant implications both on and off the field. But despite being the favorites the Red Bulls had to overcome some obstacles on the way to the club’s first major trophy.

After all, it was Freiburg, who took the lead in the 19th minute when Maximilian Eggestein beat Peter Gulacsi with a shot from outside the box. Leipzig protested a potential handball in the buildup, but VAR opted to not overturn the goal.

On balance, the lead was deserved, and things went from bad to worse in the second half for Leipzig. In the 57th minute, Marcel Halstenberg was sent off. The defender lost a footrace with Lucas Höler and opted to bring down the Freiburg striker. Referee Sascha Stegemann had no choice but to send off Halstenberg.

“I would lie if I say that in that moment I believed that we would turn the game around,” Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi said. Leipzig was without ideas and Freiburg seemed to stroll to the title. Until the 77th minute at least when Christopher Nkunku, almost out of nowhere found the equalizer. The Frenchman, who will have followed the news surrounding Kylian Mbappé today with some interest escaped his defender at the far post to tap the ball across the line.

“We just did a little less, not much but just enough to allow them back into the game,” Christian Streich said after the game. “The game didn’t go the way we wanted but to come back and then in penalties was remarkable,” Gulacsi said.

It was the only two goals in regular time and then in extra time. Then came penalties where Christain Günter and Keven Schlotterbeck missed their attempts. Leipzig, in turn, was perfect from the spot. “To score four out of four after playing with a man down was very hard,” Gulacsi said.

For Freiburg, the DFB Pokal would have had significant implications. One of the smaller clubs in German football, die Breisgau Brasilianer had already earned $4 million from the competition (all numbers reported by kicker). The winner earns an additional $5 million, the runners-up $3.7 million.

Those kinds of figures are of less importance for Leipzig. Sponsor Red Bull guarantees significant investment season after season. Furthermore, the club has qualified for the Champions League and made a deep run in the Europa League this season.

But winning the club’s first-ever trophy has serious implications for the short-term future of the club. According to Transfermarkt, Leipzig has a squad value of $512.16 million—it is the third most valuable squad in the Bundesliga behind Rekordmeister Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

“The title is very very special,” Gulacsi said. “We would have loved to have won a few more titles. But to reach semifinals in Europe and finals in the DFB Pokal in such a short time is significant. To finally win a title shows the spirit of the team.”

The first title is supposed to be a catalyst to further close the gap to Dortmund and Bayern Munich. Off the field, Leipzig is planning a tour of the United States in 2023. The DFB Pokal victory will certainly have been noticed in the States where the game was broadcasted on ESPN.

On the field, investment is planned in what is already a good squad. Priority will be to convince Nkunku to remain at the club—Leipzig has offered a new contract and wants to make him the centerpiece of a transfer offensive. The prospect of titles will be a good argument for players to stay and new players to potentially join the club.

Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth

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