In the end it was third time lucky for RB Leipzig. After a draw and a defeat in their first two Champions League appearances, they finally notched up their first ever European triumph with victory over Porto on Tuesday evening.
It was a must-win game for Leipzig, who now have a good chance of progressing from the group stage in their debut season in the Champions League.
While neither side covered themselves in glory with an array of defensive errors, the continent should take note of Leipzig’s attacking flair.
Jean-Kevin Augustin (left) extends Leipzig’s lead after being set up by Forsberg
Augustin (bottom) celebrates scoring his team’s third with team-mate Bruma on his shoulders
The French striker (centre) is congratulated by his team-mates after his crucial effort
This was the Leipzig which had lit up the Bundesliga last season. Fearless, energetic and precise, the forwards seemed unfazed by what coach Ralph Hasenhüttl had called a ‘must-win game’ in the Champions League.
Yet Leipzig remain green in this competition. Iker Casillas, on the bench for Porto today, has nearly three times as many Champions League appearances as the entire RB squad, and their inexperience showed at times again today. Going forward, it was all verve. At the back, it was mostly nerves.
Leipzig’s three goals came without the help of star striker Timo Werner, who came off the bench with a quarter of an hour to play.
Werner, who had scored five goals in six games this season before picking up an injury against Besiktas last month, is still working his way back to full match fitness. Any fear that Leipzig would be blunt without him was gone after eight minutes.
Bruma’s low shot was fumbled by Jose Sa, and centre-back Willy Orban was able to stick the ball into the Porto net. Moments later, Jean-Kevin Augustin twinkle-toed his way through two Porto defenders on the left wing before firing his shot at Sa. The nervousness which Leipzig had shown in their first two Champions League games seemed well and truly conquered.
Willi Orban (right) opens the scoring for the home side after a mistake from Jose Sa (left)
Orban salutes the Leipzig supporters after breaking the deadlock in Germany
Felipe teed up Vincent Aboubakar (centre) to equalise through the goalkeeper’s legs
Cameroonian forward Aboubaker (left) celebrates his equaliser during the first half
The nerves, it soon transpired, were still troubling the defenders. Exuberant and dangerous up front, Leipzig were coy at the back, and conceded the equaliser at the first sign of trouble in the 18th minute. After twice failing to clear a long throw, the home defence could only gawp as Vincent Aboubakar turned Lukas Klostermann at the far post and knocked the ball in to level the score.
The Leipzig forwards were unfazed, and continued to surge forward. Marcel Sabitzer, Naby Keita and Emil Forsberg could all have restored the lead before the half hour mark.
With seven minutes until the break, Forsberg did restore the lead. A brilliant link-up with Sabitzer put the Swede through on goal, and he coolly curled the ball around Sa to net his second Champions League goal this season.
Quite enough excitement for one half, but Leipzig weren’t done just yet, either with attacking brilliance or defensive calamity. Two minutes after Forsberg’s goal, Augustin was gifted the ball by Marcano and promptly knocked in Leipzig’s third.
Emil Forsberg (centre) finishes into the corner after being played through by Marcel Sabitzer
Forsberg wheels away in celebration after restoring his side’s advantage
Then, a minute before the break, the Porto defender would be gifted redemption by more dreadful defending from Leipzig. A deep corner was headed back by Hector Herrera, and Marcano, surrounded but unmarked, was allowed to karate kick the ball in to make it 3-2.
Marcano would make a goal-line clearance in the second half, Leipzig continued to push for the decisive fourth goal. Augustin had two clear chances to score, and should apologise to Sabitzer after greedily shooting himself on a dangerous counter-attack.
Werner, granted a fifteen minute runaround at the end, was given a rousing reception by the Leipzig fans, but was unable to mark his return with a goal. No cheer, though, was bigger than the one at the final whistle. Finally, Leipzig have their first win. Finally, they have arrived.
Ivan Marcano (centre) bundles the ball over the line to reduce the deficit on Tuesday night
Leipzig players make their way back to the halfway line after Marcano’s (2nd left) strike