Lucas Alario and Exequiel Palacios struck second-half goals to ensure Bayer Leverkusen finished a successful campaign with victory while Freiburg were left ruing what could have been on a final day of drama in the Bundesliga.
The sun blazing down on the BayArena for this final game of the season, Leverkusen fans were in party mode straight from the off. Already guaranteed a third place finish and a Champions League spot, the pressure was off Gerardo Seoane's side. Not so for the visitors, who were hoping to join their opponents in European football's elite competition next season. To achieve that, Freiburg needed to win, while hoping results elsewhere went their way. The tension was thus palpable for Christian Streich's men in the early stages. Moussa Diaby troubled Mark Flekken with a couple of crosses from the right, one of which the 'keeper was forced to tip over. Jolted into action, the away team began to probe, and after Nico Schlotterbeck missed with a couple of headers from decent positions, Lucas Höler went closer, nodding against the outside of an upright. Patrik Schick sought to add to his 24 top-flight goals for B04 this term with a downward header that bounced just wide while, at the other end, Vincenzo Grifo's curling shot shaved the far post as it fizzed wide.
As Streich's side began the second half looking for that all-important opener, the problem facing them was that Leverkusen have been in free-scoring form this term. Alarm bells were thus ringing among visiting ranks when Schick burst away from Schlotterbeck. With Alario in support all the way, the Czech marksman unselfishly played in his teammate, who tapped home for a Bayer lead. Die Werkself then went in search of more. Paulinho had a shot brilliantly saved by Flekken while Schick sent the follow-up against the crossbar from a tight angle. Paulinho hit the woodwork once more as the hosts looked to turn the screw. With news filtering through that Leipzig - who began the day in fourth position - were losing against Arminia Bielefeld, Streich roared his men forward. With time running out, Janik Haberer lashed in to raise the drama levels through the roof. Freiburg's desperate position meant that even goalkeeper Flekken was involved in his team's attacking play. When the visitors were caught in possession, Palacios thus had an empty net at his mercy, which he found to end Freiburg's hopes, already faltering after a late Leipzig equaliser. When the dust settles, the consolation of Europa League football and next week's DFB Cup final will lift Freiburg once again.
- This was Bayer's fourth Bundesliga win in a row.
- Alario scored his sixth goal of the season. All were netted in the second half of the campaign.
- Haberer's late goal for Freiburg was his third of the campaign.
- Palacios followed his first Bundesliga goal three weeks ago in Fürth with his second today.
- Schick just failed to equal or better the Leverkusen single-season Bundesliga goals record, held by Stefan Kießling (25 in 2012/13).
- Leverkusen have scored a single-season club record 80 goals in 2021/22.
- Gerardo Seoane led the Werkself back into the Champions League in his first season in charge and oversaw Bayer's best campaign in nine years (64 points).
Watch: Streich: "The boys had an extraordinary season"
Leverkusen: Lunev - Kossounou, Tah, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven (Bakker 67') - Baumgartlinger (c) (Aranguiz 60'), Palacios, Diaby, Paulinho (Hincapie 84') - Alario (Andrich 60'), Schick (Azmoun 83')
Unused subs: Grill, Hradecky, Lomb
Out: Adli (Achilles), Bellarabi (thigh), Demirbay (foot), Fosu-Mensah (thigh), Frimpong (match fitness), Sertdemir (groin), Wirtz (knee)
Coach: Gerardo Seoane
Freiburg: Flekken – Kübler (Sildillia 60'), Lienhart, N. Schlotterbeck, Günter (c.) – Eggestein (Haberer 69'), Höfler – Sallai (Schmid 79'), Jeong (Petersen 69'), Grifo - Höler (Demirovic 79')
Unused subs: Uphoff, K. Schlotterbeck, Gulde, Wagner
Out: Keitel (broken toe), Schade (abdominals), Weißhaupt (shoulder)
Coach: Christian Streich
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