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Union stun Freiburg in race for Europe as Leverkusen seal top-four spot

Berlin (AFP) – Dutch winger Sheraldo Becker grabbed a goal and an assist as Union Berlin stunned top-four hopefuls Freiburg with a 4-1 win in a dramatic afternoon in the Bundesliga race for Europe on Saturday.

Union smashed in three goals in the first half to put themselves on course for the Europa League in sixth and dent Freiburg’s hopes of a fairytale Champions League berth.

Freiburg remain in a Champions League place overnight, but will now drop out of the top four if RB Leipzig beat Augsburg on Sunday.

Union’s own fairytale continues however, with the Berliners now guaranteed a second successive season in European competition, having only been promoted in 2019.

They still have an outside chance of reaching the Champions League, having moved within a point of Freiburg with one match remaining.

Grischa Proemel gave Union the lead early on, bundling the ball over the line from close range after Taiwo Awoniyi’s effort hit the post. 

Lucas Hoeler had an equaliser ruled out for handball before Union captain Christopher Trimmel headed in Becker’s cross on the half-hour mark. 

Becker then rampaged down the right wing to give his side a 3-0 lead at half-time and leave the home fans shellshocked.

But Freiburg have come from behind at home before this season, and they came out fighting in the second half.

Hoeler gave them fresh hope on the hour mark when he wriggled free of the back line to poke a long ball into the bottom corner.

But substitute Andras Schafer added a fourth for Union to end any hopes of a home comeback.

While Freiburg were left to a rue a missed opportunity, third-placed Bayer Leverkusen secured Champions League qualification as Czech striker Patrik Schick fired them to a 4-2 win at Hoffenheim.

French striker Georginio Rutter gave Hoffenheim an early lead after a mistake from Leverkusen defender Piero Hincapie.

Schick then brought the visitors level with an elegant, first-time finish, but Christoph Baumgartner restored the lead with a header just two minutes later.

Yet Leverkusen turned the game on its head with two goals in three minutes in the second half.

Moussa Diaby slotted in an equaliser on 73 minutes, and Schick danced through the box to make it 3-2 moments later before Lucas Alario struck in stoppage time.

Hoffenheim’s defeat means that Cologne are also effectively guaranteed European football next season with a top-seven finish, despite losing 1-0 at home to Wolfsburg.

Former Cologne player Yannick Gerhardt scored just before half-time to give Wolfsburg an unexpected win, but delirious Cologne fans still invaded the pitch to celebrate at full-time.

Elsewhere, Julian Brandt scored twice as Borussia Dortmund cruised to a 4-1 win in a dead rubber game against relegated side Greuther Fuerth.

Jessic Ngankam cancelled out Brandt’s first-half opener with a delicate chip on 70 minutes, but the German forward immediately restored the lead at the other end. 

Felix Passlack added a third shortly afterwards, and England’s Jude Bellingham had a fourth ruled out by VAR.

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