A 121st-minute penalty secured RB Leipzig’s passage to a maiden German Cup semifinal on Wednesday night. In a generally drab game, Timo Werner, who has been short of goals in 2019, got back to what he does best.
As the clock ticked down on an ultimately dramatic but often stodgy, scrappy and forgettable German Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday night, a third consecutive goalless draw between RB Leipzig and Augsburg felt inevitable.
After 254 minutes of dreary deadlock between the two sides this season, substitute Amadou Haidara picked up yet another defensive clearance and helped a hopeful ball forward.
Kevin Danso was fractionally slow to react and suddenly the blue-shirted figure of Timo Werner streaked past him in a way that’s become so familiar over the past three years. It wasn’t the first time the Germany striker had got a yard on a defender in the game but it was the first time he made it count. Werner showed strength to hold off his man, composure to check the position of the goalkeeper and skill to roll it low past Gregor Kobel.
Shortly afterwards, Ralf Rangnick removed the man whose move to Bayern Munich either this summer or next is considered an inevitability by some, despite the 23-year-old’s struggles in 2019.
The interim Leipzig head coach soon paid a heavy price for trying to keep Werner fresh for the Red Bulls’ trip to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, as Alfred Finnbogason stuck out a desperate boot to equalize for the hosts in the dying seconds of injury time.
Stefan Ilsanker was the man picked to replace Werner as Rangnick looked to add numbers to the middle of the park and close the game out, as Leipzig have done so effectively and so often in the Bundesliga this term.
But Finnbogason’s intervention meant an extra half hour that neither side would have wished for at the start but neither would have sacrificed at full time.
As a tense 30 minute period became stretched, that feeling of inveitability returned – this game was going to be decided by penalties. But again there was a twist, the referee pointing to the spot in the last minute of injury time after Michael Gregoritsch inexplicably handled in the box. Marcel Halstenberg ensured that, in the end, only one spot kick was required.
Rangnick will know that, with Bayern Munich likely to be among the opponents for the first German Cup semifinal in RB Leipzig’s short history, he’ll need Werner to be at his ruthless best. The signs are that he’s getting there.