A few minutes before the start of the cup semi-final, Domenico Tedesco said a wise sentence. “What we want is one thing, what we are allowed to do is another,” was the philosophically valuable view of a football game between RB Leipzig and Union Berlin. From the context – the football coach Tedesco did not speak the sentence in a lecture hall at Leipzig University, but in the midst of 47,000 football fans – it could be deduced that the content was about football: Tedesco had wanted to raise the question of whether Union would also play its Leipzig team on Wednesday evening would let her high-quality football play, with which she made it to the semi-finals of the cup.
And while questions of wanting and being allowed have been debated in philosophy for centuries, football sometimes gives pleasantly clear answers in 90 minutes: It was Leipzig’s will and a late winning goal in the 2-1 win over Union Berlin that brought them into the final.
In the absence of Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern in the semi-finals of the DFB Cup, after Hamburg against Freiburg the night before, Leipzig against Berlin almost had something of an underdog charm. In the case of Union Berlin, this thesis could even be proven, since 2001 the Köpenickers have had no chance of a final game. RB, on the other hand, was in the semi-finals for the third time in the past four years, and Leipzig managing director Oliver Mintzlaff said before the game that they had “great experiences” during this time.
Despite this lead in experience, Leipzig found it difficult to get into the game. Compared to the league game against Leverkusen, Tedesco had largely rotated his regular staff back to the field, only one change was forced: Mohamed Simakan defended for the Corona contact person Lukas Klostermann on the right side of the central defense. However, the changes were less important than the fact that the opponents from Berlin focused on not offering anything to the favorites from the start.
Urs Fischer’s team – currently just as strong as Leipzig – defended in the usual formation with excellent organization and hardly allowed Leipzig to combine past the center line. In the initial phase there was time for a mood boycott by the Union fans – and greetings: Tedesco briefly hugged his former Schalke companion Bastian Oczipka when he was waiting for a ball to be thrown in at the coach box. Somewhat surprisingly, Ozipka was called up by Fischer instead of Niko Gießelmann as a left winger for the starting XI, but it was the other change that gave the Unionern the lead.
On the right side, Christopher Trimmel returned to his regular place in the starting XI after a short break against Frankfurt. The Austrian showed himself in his prime role as a crosser: In the 25th minute, Trimmel got some space on the right for the first time and an excellent pass from Taiwo Awoniyi, which he deflected directly into a sharp cross at the far post. There, Sheraldo Becker sprinted behind the Leipzig defense and scored from close range to make it 1-0.
Union had thus opened the cup evening, which was good for the somewhat static game between two teams that ran in a very similar tactical formation. Leipzig were slightly overweight by half-time and had the best chance to equalize through striker Andre Silva in the 37th minute: After a combination via Dani Olmo, the Portuguese shot from eleven yards, but pushed the ball just to the right of the goal past.
Little changed in the second half. The players of the Tedescosche philosophy school wanted to continue, but were hardly allowed: Union defended well and played very good long balls forward on occasion. Becker won his running duel in the 57th minute, but Awoniyi was unable to convert his cross pass to make it 2-0. Instead, the Berliners distributed an invitation to equalize on the other side shortly afterwards: Paul Jaeckel fouled Christopher Nkunku relatively clearly in the penalty area, referee Felix Brych nevertheless watched the scene briefly on the screen and then decided on a penalty. Silva safely converted that to equalize (61st minute).
However, Union did not let this deter them at first: The Berliners continued to defend well, but in the final ten minutes of the game they managed to play balls from their own half less and less. Leipzig came up with more situations in the penalty area, continued to try it playfully – and then finally with a stylistic device that is usually used in football when a team really wants to but is not really allowed to: Benjamin hit in the second minute of added time Henrichs sent a sharp cross into the penalty area, which substitute Emil Forsberg headed into the goal to make it 2-1. Leipzig will therefore be playing for the DFB Cup in Berlin on May 21st.