RB Leipzig are strong favourites to progress to the UEFA Europa League play-offs after a 3-1 first-leg win at home in their third-round qualifier against Romanian top-flight side CS Universitatea Craiova.
Head coach Ralf Rangnick opted for almost an identical team to the one that started the first leg against BK Häcken in the second round. Goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo was the only new face, as he made his first competitive appearance of the season.
KONATÉ HEADS IN THE OPENER
Die Roten Bullen burst out of the traps and looked full of ideas in a dominant first half. Both Bruma and Jean-Kévin Augustin had golden chances to break the deadlock inside ten minutes, but neither could direct their efforts on target. RBL were squeezing Craiova further and further inside their own half with some neat football, yet it was a set-piece that provided the first goal on 25 minutes. Kevin Kampl's inswinging corner was cutely headed backwards by Ibrahima Konaté and the ball landed found the net via the underside of the crossbar. Leipzig took their foot off their gas a little after opening the scoring, but still could have been leading by more than 1-0.
Poulsen DECIDES THE GAME OFF THE BENCH
The second half didn't have the same flow of the firs 45, but the introduction of Emil Forsberg, Marcel Sabitzer and Yussuf Poulsen in particular with around 15 minutes to go provided fresh impetus. The Dane's ball across the face of goal in the 77th minute was simple for Matheus Cunha to steer home, before Poulsen netted RBL's third himself, slotting away a rebound after Forsberg's free-kick was kept out by a combination of the Craiova keeper and the post. It was almost a perfect result, until Ivan Martic netted a useful away goal for the Romanian visitors in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time to make it 3-1 and keep the tie somewhat alive for next week's second leg.
Ralf Rangnick's reaction:
- "I'm very happy with much of the game. The introductin of Marcel Sabitzer, Emil Forsberg and Yussuf Poulsen gave us more precision in attack and a fresh impetus. We obviously conceded an annoying goal, but I still think that if we play like that again next week, we will win the return leg too. It's in our own hands."
Mvogo – Klostermann, Orban (C), Konaté, Saracchi – Demme, Ilsanker, Kampl – Cunha, Augustin, Bruma
CS Universitatea Craiova:
Pigliacelli – Ferreira, Briceag, Kelic, Mateiu, Cicâldău, Bancu, Mitrita (C), Donkor, Martic, Mihăilă