Sven Michel and Kevin Behrens scored inside three minutes to give 1. FC Union Berlin a dramatic victory at Rasenballsport Leipzig on Saturday.
Just three days after the German Cup semi-final defeat, Union returned to the Zentralstadion with the target of bolstering hopes of qualifying for Europe next season. Yussuf Poulsen fired Leipzig ahead after 46 minutes and it looked like Domenico Tedesco’s team would run home with three points. But incredibly, Michel and Behrens struck on 86 and 89 minutes respectively to give the Köpenick club a sensational win in front of 3,000 Union fans.
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi; Simakan, Orban, Halstenberg, Mukiele (Henrichs 83), Adams, Kampl (Laimer 63), Angelino, Poulsen (Silva 64), Nkunku (Szoboszlai 75), Forsberg (Olmo 63)
Union Berlin: Rönnow; Trimmel (Ryerson 76), Gießelmann (Oczipka 76), Knoche, Heintz (Michel 86), Jaeckel; Khedira, Prömel, Schäfer (Voglsammer 69); Awoniyi (Behrens 86), Becker
Emil Forsberg’s 92nd-minute goal concluded Wednesday’s match in Leipzig, denying Union the opportunity to play a German Cup final at home in Berlin. Despite the quick turnaround, Urs Fischer only made three changes to the side as the Köpenick club looked to continue the fight to move up the table before the end of the season. Timo Baumgartl, Bastian Oczipka and Genki Haraguchi were replaced on Saturday afternoon by Andras Schäfer, Dominique Heintz and Niko Gießelmann. Meanwhile, Domenico Tedesco rotated his side ahead of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday with six changes from midweek.
The first half of the game in Leipzig was fairly similar to Wednesday’s performance in the Cup. Union worked tirelessly to disrupt the home side’s game and hurt them on the break. Tedesco’s men struggled at times with the pressure of Union’s work, but this time carved out few opportunities. Taiwo Awoniyi headed on goal in the first minute with captain Christopher Trimmel late into the box to try and follow up on the rebound. A corner from the captain on 18 minutes was headed over by Heintz. Maybe the emotional toll of Wednesday was a factor in the lack of a breakthrough in the first 45 minutes, but Union gave their all. Awoniyi and Sheraldo Becker did their utmost again to get in behind the Leipzig defence, with the home side resorting to some physical tactics. On 38 minutes, the Dutch winger dropped a fine cross into the box from the left but Trimmel fired over. As the half drew to a close, Union should have taken the lead when Awoniyi combined with Grischa Prömel to great effect. The midfielder charged into the box but Peter Gulacsi stayed up to make the save. A minute later, a corner kick was cleared as far as Trimmel who fired a sensational strike against the crossbar from distance.
Remarkably, inside the first 100 seconds of the second half, Leipzig managed to take the lead. Union didn’t clear their lines in the penalty box and Poulsen fired into the bottom corner. Aside from Christopher Nkunku hitting the post on 73 minutes from a tight angle, this was all the trouble Frederik Rönnow had to deal with on Saturday afternoon. It was Union in control, but finding the cutting edge was a hard task. On 58 minutes, Becker’s cross found Niko Gießelmann at the back-post and despite getting his shot away, the full-back was brought down by Mukiele. VAR referee Markus Schmidt alerted match referee Daniel Schlager that there was a potential penalty check. For several minutes, Schlager looked at the monitor but despite the contact on Gießelmann, no penalty was awarded to Union. Fischer turned to his bench with Andreas Voglsammer taking Schäfer’s place in the side following an excellent, industrious performance from the Hungarian. After the first double switch of Julian Ryerson and Bastian Oczipka, it was the second double switch which would prove key for Union. Sven Michel and Kevin Behrens got the nod with five minutes to go as Union tried everything to find a way back into the game. Within 21 seconds, Michel ran across the Leipzig central defenders and headed in Becker’s near-post cross. With Leipzig on the back foot, Union took full advantage. Michel provided an incredible backheel assist to set up Behrens who made no mistake with a ruthless finish to send the Union contingent home happy.
1. FC Union Berlin go back on the pursuit of Bundesliga points next Friday evening at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei when Greuther Fürth head to the capital.