Vincenzo Grifo and Sardar Azmoun trade beauties in Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen draw
Vincenzo Grifo's superb 12th Bundesliga goal of the season was cancelled out by Sardar Azmoun's first as Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Freiburg 1-1 Leverkusen
Goals: 1-0 Grifo 29', 1-1 Azmoun 67' (assist: Bakker)
Hosts Freiburg were out to secure the victory required to keep pace in what is proving to be a fascinating Bundesliga title race, while Leverkusen have slipped into the bottom half of the table in recent weeks and are desperate to end the season as strongly as possible. Freiburg had to make an early change, with Ritsu Doan forced off through injury, as an even first half took time to warm up amid the falling snow at the Europa-Park Stadion. And it took a set-piece to light the fire; Grifo lifting the ball over the wall and into the back of the net from fully 25-yard, via the inside post and back of Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky. Bar the returning Moussa Diaby getting in behind Freiburg on a couple of occasions, there was little else by the way of goalmouth action and the hosts were fairly comfortable leaders at the interval.
Die Werkself boss Xabi Alonso called for Florian Wirtz at the start of the second period, hoping the Germany international would be able to spark his team into life. There was no immediate inspiration among the visitors' ranks and Freiburg were once again resolute, proving why they have made a habit of collecting clean sheets this season. Patrik Schick was also called upon with 25 minutes to play and Leverkusen were level within two minutes of his arrival. It wasn't the Czech striker that pulled one back, though, instead Azmoun hooked Mitchell Bakker's sumptuous cross back across goal and into the back of the net. Another Grifo free-kick caused chaos soon after, with Hradecky and the Leverkusen post denying Freiburg a second before the ball ping-ponged to safety. Schick later struck the woodwork himself, but both sides ultimately settled for a deserved point.
- Suspension to Freiburg captain Christian Günter ended a run of 134 consecutive Bundesliga appearances for the 29-year-old as he missed a German top-flight fixture for the first time since February 2019.
- Grifo's opener was his 12th league goal of the campaign. He has also provided four assists and just Niclas Füllkrug has scored more Bundesliga goals than the Italy international this season.
- It was the second time in 2022/23 that Grifo has scored directly from a free-kick in the Bundesliga. He has also successfully converted seven penalties.
- Azmoun's equaliser was his first league goal of the season.
- Leverkusen have had 16 different scorers in the top-flight this term - more than any other team in the division.
- Die Werkself have won just one of their last five Bundesliga matches (W1, D1, L3) and have the same record from the five most recent meetings between these sides.
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Freiburg: Flekken (c) - Sildillia, Ginter, Lienhart, Kübler - Eggestein, Höfler - Doan (Sallai 25'), Höler, Grifo (Jeong 84') - Gregoritsch (Petersen 83')
Unused subs: Uphoff, Gulde, Schmid, Keitel, Weißhaupt, Röhl
Out: Günter (suspended), Kyereh (cruciate ligament)
Coach: Christian Streich
Leverkusen: Hradecky (c) - Frimpong, Kossounou, Tapsoba, Bakker - Demirbay, Andrich, Palacios - Diaby (Schick 66'), Azmoun (Amiri 86'), Hlozek (Wirtz 46')
Unused subs: Pentz, Sinkgraven, Fosu-Mensah, Mbamba, Hudson-Odoi, Bellarabi
Out: Adli (suspended), Aranguiz (calf), Hincapie (suspended), Lunev (back), Tah (suspended)
Coach: Xabi Alonso
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