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Clinical Freiburg down stuttering Frankfurt, Hamburg edge Berlin

Frankfurt’s recent woes in the Bundesliga continued with a 2-1 home defeat to Freiburg on Sunday. Late in the game, Hamburg secured a hard-earned but vital victory over Hertha Berlin.

Hamburg 1–0 Hertha Berlin
(Ekdal 77’)

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Relegation-threatened Hamburg and a Hertha side chasing European football both needed the points for very different reasons. And the game began in lively fashion with end-to-end football played at high tempo. After their 8-0 thrashing in Munich last week, Hamburg had some making up to do in front of their own fans. And they created the better chances. First Lewis Holtby and then Nicolai Müller forced good saves from Hertha keeper Rune Jarstein. The visitors were unable to carve out any meaningful opportunities and were probably the happier of the two sides to go into the dressing rooms with the score still goalless.

Deutschland Hamburger SV v Hertha BSC - Bundesliga (Getty Images/Bongarts/M. Rose)

US international Bobby Wood (center) was at the heart of Hamburg's attacks

The game slowed down somewhat after the break, with both sides seemingly content to wait for the other to make a mistake. Play was concentrated in midfield and on the rare occasion space opened up, the final ball was sorely lacking. Hertha dominated possession but never forced Rene Adler into action. Hamburg then took the lead with just over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Good work by Bobby Wood set up Aaron Hunt, whose low first-time cross found Albin Ekdal ten yards out. The Swede stuck out a right boot under pressure and found the top corner to register his first goal for Hamburg. With time running out, Hertha appeared unwilling to risk anything in search of an equalizer. Hamburg held on for a hard-earned but deserved victory and three vital points in the battle to beat the drop.

Deutschland Hamburger SV gegen Hertha Berlin (picture alliance/CITYPRESS 24/M. Taeger)

Chances were few and far between in a hard-fought match

Frankfurt 1–2 Freiburg
(Hrgota 11‘ – Niederlechner 25‘, 59‘)

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Following three straight Bundesliga defeats, Eintracht Frankfurt were looking to capitalize on their victory in the cup midweek and get their league campaign back on track. In the tentative opening stages, Eintracht proved more effective at carving out chances and took the lead with barely ten minutes played. A long clearance by Michael Hector eventually landed at the feet of Branimir Hrgota, who bided his time before slotting the ball past Alexander Schwolow in the Freiburg goal. 

Deutschland Eintracht Frankfurt v SC Freiburg - Bundesliga (Getty Images/Bongarts/A. Grimm)

Frankfurt got off to the perfect start with an early opener from Branimir Hrgota

But it was the visitors who played the better football, passing the ball around neatly and looking more inventive. They got their reward a short while after falling behind. An incisive through ball by Nicolas Höfler split the Frankfurt defence wide open. Florian Niderlechner raced clear and kept his cool to round the keeper and equalize.

Eintracht thought they had taken the lead once more when Rebic headed home from a corner, but the goal was disallowed. Midfielder Mijat Gacinovic was ruled to have impeded Schwolow in the build-up. A very physical aspect started to characterize Frankfurt's play in the run-up to half-time as they frequently operated on the fringes of the rulebook. The fans, and coach Niko Kovac in particular, felt aggrieved at their treatment as tempers started to flare.

Deutschland Eintracht Frankfurt v SC Freiburg - Bundesliga (Getty Images/Bongarts/A. Grimm)

Florian Niederlechner (pictured left) proved the matchwinner with a well-taken brace

Their sense of injustice grew further still after the break as Freiburg took the lead. Following some sensational link-up play with Maik Frantz, Vicenzo Grifo threaded the ball through to Niederlechner. The striker lobbed Lukas Hradecky to double his tally in the match, but Frankfurt felt he did so from an offside position.

Niko Kovac brought Barkok, Tarashaj and Meier as Frankfurt looked to attack more directly rather than from the flanks. But it proved to no avail. Freiburg kept their shape and it was only from set-pieces that Frankfurt threatened. In the end, Freiburg were very good value for the three points that propel them towards the race for Europe. 

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