West Ham United will have it all to do in next Thursday’s second leg at London Stadium if their European adventures are to continue into the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. 
While substitute Michael Gregoritsch’s 81st-minute decider gives SC Freiburg the advantage when they head to the East End in seven days’ time, following a controversial finish at Stadion am Wolfswinkel, the angry Hammers will be in vengeful mood after being denied a last-gasp penalty.
When stretching substitute Noah Weißhaupt handballed with just seconds remaining, David Moyes men looked set to be handed a life-line but - after being sent to his touchline monitor for a seemingly eternal review - Spanish referee Alejandro Hernández finally denied them a spot-kick to the dismay of the travelling Claret and Blue army and delight of the home supporters.
Having endured an uncomfortable start to 2024, the Hammers had ended a barren, winless eight-game spell with back-to-back victories over Brentford and Everton and they arrived in Germany having seemingly turned the corner.
Indeed, Saturday’s 3-1 triumph on Merseyside had left West Ham in seventh spot in the Premier League and, after switching from Goodison Park to Germany, Moyes made just one predictable change as cup keeper Łukasz Fabiański took the gloves from substitute goalie Alphonse Areola.
Automatically qualifying for this round of 16, the Hammers had already beaten Christian Streich’s side both home (2-0) and away (2-1) to top Group A but Freiburg had, at least, come into this first-leg tie buoyed by their determined 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich last Friday.
That confidence-boosting result left them in ninth place in their domestic Bundesliga and – six days on – the unchanged Germans certainly started on the front foot with Vladimír Coufal immediately being forced to make a last-ditch tackle on the breaking Roland Sallai as the Hungarian quickly charged into the Hammers area. 
Indeed, the English club's rearguard continued to find itself under pressure from the hosts as central defensive duo Kurt Zouma and Konstantinos Mavropanos were forced to cope with an early aerial bombardment.
On 15 minutes, though, Moyes' men mustered a menace of their own, when Jarrod Bowen stole down the left but keeper Noah Atubolu comfortably held the 20-yarder to prevent the West Ham wide-boy from adding to his club-record nine European goals.
In reply, Maximilian Eggestein despatched an ambitious 25-yarder high and wide into his own fans before Sallai diverted a wayward header in the same direction, ahead of scuffing a low, angled shot across the face of Fabiański’s far post. 
Not that Mohammed Kudus was any more accurate, the Ghanaian international chancing his luck with another long-ranger that posed more danger to Freiburg’s excitable drummer and his equally enthusiastic flag-waving associates standing on the terraces behind Atubolu’s goal.
The half-hour mark, though, saw both teams have their best opportunities to break the deadlock but to Streich’s chagrin, Lucas Höler rifled his 15-yarder straight at Fabiański before Kudus broke at the other end, where his deep, hanging right-wing cross was wastefully bundled behind at the far post by the in-rushing Bowen.
Incisive interplay in the Hammers area forced Zouma to go to ground where he prodded the ball out for Freiburg’s third corner of the evening and, moments later, Edson Álvarez found himself sliding across the turf, too, having been upended by the consequently-caution Kiliann Sildillia on the halfway line.
By now, Moyes had switched Lucas Paquetá into a central midfield role as James Ward-Prowse – playing in his first-ever European knockout tie – moved out left but despite some trademark flicks and tricks the Brazilian just could not prevent the opening 45 minutes from finishing in stalemate.
Seconds after the restart, though, Kudus drilled a low 20-yarder into the clutches of Atubolu, before his opposite number Fabiański found himself scrambling across goal to finally gather Sallai’s acrobatic swivelling volley after it had taken an awkward deflection on its way through to the Polish stopper. 
Shortly afterwards, the disillusioned figure of Sallai was booked for dissent after seeing a fruitless penalty appeal turned aside, while at the other end there was frustration for Paquetá who just could not reach Coufal’s deflected cross.
Then, from Ward-Prowse’s subsequent corner, Mavropanos rose highest before agonisingly sending a downward header onto the base of Atubolu’s left-hand upright, while Coufal again raided down the right, where he fired a low, angled 25-yarder inches wide.
A lunge on Ritsu Doan earned Paquetá his eighth yellow card of the campaign and, after Bowen’s angled shot was tipped away at full stretch by the Freiburg stopper, midway through the second period, Emerson hobbled away to be replaced by Aaron Cresswell.
Streich made two tactical switches of his own with Vincenzo Grifo and Höler retiring in place of villain of the piece Weißhaupt and, crucially, Gregoritsch, who signalled his intentions by wasting no time in heading straight at the relieved Fabiański.
Ward-Prowse also drilled an effort into the clutches of the increasingly busy Atubolu before whipping over a left-wing cross that was just an inch or so too high for the airborne  Bowen.
But just as West Ham appeared to be getting the upper hand in this tie, it was Freiburg who finally broke the deadlock with just 10 minutes remaining, when Gregoritsch ghosted behind the flatfooted Zouma to tap-in Sallai’s low cross to the edge of the six-yard box.
Even before Freiburg had struck, Moyes had decided to introduce Kalvin Phillips at the expense of Ward-Prowse and, by the time Michail Antonio was summoned from the bench to replace Paquetá in the dying moments, there appeared to be no way back for the Hammers.
But in a frantic finale, Freiburg were struggling to clear their defensive lines and, when Mavropanos unleashed a hopeful shot Weißhaupt - under pressure from Tomáš Souček – handled.

But following a lengthy Video Assistant Review, and an equally protracted pitchside viewing, Senor Hernández somehow still decided against awarding a penalty.
Instead, of having the opportunity to try and level from the spot, the Hammers now find themselves chasing the tie on home turf next Thursday (5.45pm).
SC Freiburg: Atubolu, Sildillia (Kübler 80), Gunter, Ginter, Gulde, Höfler, Eggestein, Doan (Muslija 80), Grifo (Weißhaupt 70), Sallai (Röhl 88), Höler (Gregoritsch 70). Unused subs: Müller, Uphoff, Szalai, Keitel, Adamu, Phillip, Makengo, 
West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Emerson (Cresswell 67), Zouma, Mavropanos, Souček, Álvarez, Ward-Prowse (Phillips 80), Kudus, Paquetá (Antonio 90+1), Bowen. Unused subs: Areola, Anang, Johnson, Ings, Ogbonna, Earthy, Casey, Mubama, Orford.
Booked: Sildillia (40), Sallai (49), Paquetá (59).
Referee: Alejandro Hernández (Spain).