Fourth met fifth as Freiburg hosted Frankfurt on Friday - and neither of this season's surprise Bundesliga packages could find the net. The draw couldn't live up to its billing, but there were early and late fireworks.
Freiburg boast the Bundesliga's second best defense, with 22 goals conceded in 23 games, while Frankfurt's scoring figures put them in the top five in the league – meaning it was hard to predict which way the game might go. Two organized defensive lines with strong young German keepers behind them won the day.
Visitors Frankfurt started strongest, despite a re-jigged attack in the absence of suspended Japanese winger Takashi Inui and injured striker Srjdan Lakic.
Stefan Aigner made the early running for coach Armin Veh's makeshift side. The winger had a 12th-minute goal disallowed for offside, with replays showing he was just ahead of his marker when Bastian Oczipka pinged a long bomb over the Freiburg defense. Five minutes later, and moments after missing with his head, Aigner blasted a low shot into the side-netting on the break.
Aigner also set up an excellent first half chance for big midfield goal poacher Alex Meier, but he headed the cross into keeper Oliver Baumann's arms.
Frankurt remained in clear control during the first period, but the quality of play declined approaching half time. Tempers were beginning to fray late in the period - with Freiburg's Daniel Caligiuri and Frankfurt's Karim Matmour both earning bookings. Some other scuffles were treated with leniency by referee Peter Gagelmann.
Freiburg dominate at the close
If the first half belonged to the visitors, hosts Freiburg took control of the tight game late on. After a middle-phase of the game worth forgetting, two corners on the hour mark denoted the turning of the tide.
Twice Frankfurt's Stefano Celozzi - who usually warms Armin Veh's bench - cleared off the line from the set pieces. In the first instance he denied Jan Rosenthal, then Matthias Ginter from tasty Max Kruse deliveries.
Kruse himself - often a Freiburg standout - was the beneficiary of a slick Jonathan Schmid ball with around 15 minutes to play. The attacking midfielder's first touch was exquisite, turning away from his marker and making room to shoot, but Kevin Trapp got down well to stop the shot from Kruse's weaker right foot. Substitute Johannes Flum was waiting in the middle unmarked, but keeper Trapp said in an interview after the game that he thought Kruse's best option was to shoot.
Flum, who replaced ineffective forward Karim Guede, came close twice in the dying minutes as the homes fans sniffed three points.
After Jan Rosenthal headed the ball across the face of goal, Flum arrived just five or six meters out, but nodded the ball onto the roof of the net. Seconds later, the midfielder tried his luck from distance, forcing Trapp into another excellent save.
Ultimately, the two midfield-oriented sides neutered one another and remain fourth and fifth in the table. However, both Hamburg and Mainz could theoretically overtake Freiburg with good results at the weekend - Mainz, however, would have to trounce Wolfsburg by a four-goal margin to do so.
In other weekend Bundesliga action, Bayern Munich host Werder Bremen - with loaned Bayern hit man Nils Petersen returning to his former employers in a rich vein of form. Hannover host northern rivals Hamburg, also on Saturday, while Borussia Mönchengladbach entertain second-placed Borussia Dortmund on Sunday.
Greuther Fürth, sans fired coach Mike Büskens, have a tough home game against Bayer Leverkusen to start former U-23 coach Ludwig Preis' interim stint with the club.