Football Features

Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach: Super-sub Nils Petersen strikes a blow to Rose’s UCL hopes

By Chris Smith

Published: 21:35, 5 June 2020

Borussia Monchengladbach’s Champions League hopes took a blow as they fell to a 1-0 defeat away to Freiburg on Friday night.

Marco Rose’s men have been impressive since the Bundesliga restart but squandered the chance to go third, falling to a second-half header from substitute Nils Petersen. With Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg up next, Gladbach will be looking nervously over their shoulder at fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

For Freiburg, the win puts them firmly back into the race for Europa League football having suffered somewhat since the return of play.

So, what did we learn from Friday’s encounter?

1. Super-sub Petersen makes an immediate impact

Having weathered what was quite a substantial Gladbach storm during the first half, Christian Streich decided to withdraw Roland Sallai in favour of former Bayern Munich striker, Nils Petersen, who had nine Bundesliga goals to his name ahead of Friday’s match.

It didn’t take Petersen long to make his presence felt, getting in-between the Gladbach defence to head home a Vincenzo Grifo free-kick with his first touch of the ball. In fact, Sallai hadn’t even got himself settled on the Freiburg bench by the time his replacement had opened the scoring.

That’s Petersen’s 24th goal as a substitute throughout his Bundesliga career, while Freiburg have now scored 14 of their last 21 (67%) Bundesliga goals from set-pieces.

2. Freiburg keep Europa League hopes alive

Freiburg had been absolutely awful since the Bundesliga restart ahead of Friday’s match, taking just two points from a possible 12 and scoring just four goals along the way. This run saw them slip to the fringes of the race for Europa League football, with Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim drawing level on 42 points, four ahead of Freiburg.

However, this impressive win over a well-fancied Gladbach side has kept them in with a chance, now just one point behind the leading pack again. But it’s not just the points gained which were important to Streich and his team on Friday night, the confidence they’ll gain from this win going into the final four games will be vital if they’re to catch those above them.

Despite Gladbach putting immense pressure on them in the first half, Freiburg were robust defensively, able to keep the visitors at bay. After the break, they created a number of good openings and although still admittedly against the run of play, Petersen’s goal to give them the lead had certainly been earned.

Freiburg travel to Wolfsburg in their next game, so anything could happen from here.

3. Gladbach fail to lay down a Champions League marker

If anyone fancies having a go at predicting who is going to finish in those coveted Champions League spots at the end of the Bundesliga season, they’re a lot braver than any of us. The picture just keeps on changing from week to week, with teams going on runs or slipping up and shooting themselves in the foot on a whim.

On Friday, Gladbach had a wonderful chance to put pressure on those around them with a trip to an out-of-form Freiburg, but ultimately failed to make their pressure tell and succumbed to a pretty disastrous defeat. Instead of taking three points and moving into third, Rose’s side are now largely at the mercy of those around them.

Rose will be thanking his lucky stars that fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen face Bayern Munich on Saturday, but Peter Bosz’s men have been fantastic since the restart and you wouldn’t put it past them to take something from Hansi Flick’s defending champions.

Regardless, Gladbach face Bayern themselves in their next match, while following that up with a clash against Wolfsburg is no walk in the park.

4. From hero to zero

Gladbach tore through Union Berlin like a buzzsaw in their last match, with Marcus Thuram scoring twice and Alassane Plea notching a goal and two assists. On Friday, Rose’s French duo did anything but cover themselves in glory.

Thuram was horribly non-existent throughout the 90 minutes, failing to register and single shot and allowing defenders to beat him to crosses that should be a striker’s dream.

Even so, it was Plea who caught the eye the most, for all the wrong reasons. First, he was booked for dissent in the first half, then, with Gladbach in desperate need of an equaliser, managed to get himself sent off with a late challenge on Freiburg midfielder Robin Koch.

Plea took an age to leave the field, arguing his case with the referee and petulantly kicking the ball away, while even sporting director Max Eberl managed to get himself sent off from the bench for his demonstrations — surely a first for sporting director?

Not a good night at the office for Plea.

5. Neuhaus still manages to impress despite Gladbach struggles

There have been some splendid individual performers in Germany since the Bundesliga returned. The likes of Alphonso Davies and Kai Havertz have drawn global attention while Jadon Sancho announced his return to fitness with a brilliant second-half hat-trick against Paderborn last week. However, one player who has gone well under the radar is Gladbach midfielder, Florian Neuhaus.

The former Germany youth international has been a wonderful controlling presence in the middle for Rose’s side, protecting his back four, progressing the ball forward, combining on the edge of the box and making late runs to get on the end of crosses all in equal measure.

Friday was no different as Neuhaus ran the show in the first half, spreading play with beautifully precise passing and coming close to putting Gladbach ahead on a number of occasions. His wastefulness in front of goal was actually the one thing you could criticise him for during the opening 45 minutes.

By the end of the match, Neuhaus had covered a match-high 12.33km, made more passes in the opposition half (49) than any other Gladbach player and gained possession eight times — no Gladbach player won the ball back more for their side.

Despite Gladbach’s failures in Freiburg, Neuhaus once again displayed his considerable quality.

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