Union beat Leipzig


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1.FC Union Berlin: Rönnow – Ryerson (Giesselmann), Leite, Knoche, Jaeckel, Trimmel – Haberer (Michel), Khedira, Schäfer (Thorsby) – Siebatcheu (Behrens), Becker (Haraguchi)

RasenBallsport Leipzig: Blaswich – Gvardiol (Halstenberg), Orban, Simakan – Raum, Kampl (Haidara), Laimer (Valente da Silva), Heinrichs -Olmo – Nkunku, Werner

Goals: 1-0 Siebacheu (32), 2-0 Becker (38), 2-1 Orban (82)

Attendance: 22,056 (Sold out)

 A composed start, devastating finishing

Urs Fischer had summoned up the past before the game. He’d said that winning against RB twice in the league last year would make a difference, it would help. It would bolster them when they needed it, knowing that they could win against a team, supposed to be occupying a different plane.

He had intoned those 2-1 wins. And somehow it was to be true again.

Union seemed content to let RB have the ball for the start of the first half. It zipped across the wet pitch like it was on ice. RB’s new signing Werner combining with last year’s player of the season Nkunku, but Union stayed resolute. They knew what they had to do. Urs Fischer had schooled them well. Ride your challenges, fight for the ball.

Robin Knoche showed exactly this when he nicked the ball off Werner’s toe on the edge of the 18 yard box. Konrad Laimer bringing the ire of the Unioner when he fouled Diogo Leitte after only 6 minutes.

Leite’s got quick feet, a fast brain and he’s not afraid to muck in, either. Jordan did so too, tracking back to disposess Carvajal or when Chasing Kevin Kampl well back into his own half.

But despite the fire on the pitch, it was curiously quiet in the stands for the first 15 minutes, the ultras waiting to sing, just as they did eight years ago in the first ever clash between the clubs. They were waiting to sing, to make the point that without them – without all fans, without football as a community, and not a mrketing endeavour – this means nothing. Their silence, despite regular spontaneous rains of opprobrium coming down upon the opponents, was golden, somehow. The jet engine roar at 15 minutes when the stadium erupted as one sending a message bigger than anyone could alone.

Werner fell easily in the box, prompting a worried look or two on the terraces, but the referee waved it away dismissively. That inspired the noise. But then so did the indefatiguable Rani Khedira’s shot, booted off the line by Mohamed Simakan.

Werner would hit the post, put through by Heinrichs, his lifted effort grazing the woodwork and seen off to safety by Paul Jaeckel. It was inches off target, but those inches would prove huge.

Because Union had a plan, too. Becker was threatening ever more. He burst past Gvardiol, hitting a low angled ball just in front of Jordan. For all Leipzig’s triangles and angles and sharply hit through balls Union were starting to see opportunies for themselves. Leipzig were at a loss. A yellow card coming for Kampl as he brought down Andras Schäfer wide on the right, inside his own half. 

And then they brought the house down, Jordan and Sheraldo, Sheraldo and Jordan, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. After half-an-hour Becker burst through a suddenly yawning gap, he laid it off for Siebatcheu who finished with a neat finish inside the left hand post, under pressure all the time from a desparate Orban lunge.

It was a devastating break, one that had been threatened already.  The ball from Becker was perfectly weighted, the finish unerring and devastating from his partner.

Just before kick-off Siebatcheu had been presented with the Swiss goalscorer of the year award. He’s the king of the mountains. And it was suddenly so easy to see why. But instead of white with red polka dots, he hared away in red and white stripes. Adoration and riotous adulation hanging in the damp air.

Then, only five minutes later it was 2-0. Jordan was brought down by Orban again, but had already slipped the ball out to Becker as he hit the ground. He beat one, turned inside another and squeezed a shot away inside the back post.

Union’s tails were now up, Leipzig left hanging on for the break. Schäfer causing a huisance of the right, Sheraldo menacing them, he beat the despairing Gvardiol again on the stroke of half time but his cross-cum-shot slipped just past the back post.

Leipzig had been reduced to fouls, to chasing shadows.

RB draw blood, but Union remain defiant

Union were now happy again to let their gilded opponents have the ball while they fought tooth and nail to stop them getting into the box. Nkunku was reduced to a header over, Werner dallied on the ball as he was pushed ever further wide by Leite.

But Schäfer, who was covering everywhere, now popped up on the insde left position, he danced and he tricked, he laid the ball off for Siebatcheu, but his first time shot flew just wide.

RB didn’t give up, but Knoche was always there somehow on Werner, stepping up and stretching his arms, telling his team-mates to keep their width. Schäfer was tracking back,  Jaeckel and Leite pushing and pulling and harrying, making life difficult, roared on by the Unioner. Julian Ryerson clearing off the line after a scramble in the box. Leite dived in front of Carvajal’s cross, he stood firm in front of Werner’s shot, always in the right place, showing the positioning of a chess ingénue.

Kevin Behrens came on after an hour for the departing Siebatcheu whose name was sung into the heavens. Then the Gegengerade and the Waldseite sung a call and response, creating a cathedral – if a a drunken, delirious, bellowing cathedral – of noise.

Union made three further changes, with 20 minutes to go, Sven Michel, Genki Haraguchi and Morton Thorsby stepping in to exploit the gaps now opening up as Leipzig strived for an opening. Michel and Behrens carving open the Leipzig defence, but it was Schäfer who would be there once again as Leipzig threw their final dice.

But Orban would score in the 83rd minute, making it 2-1. Of course.

The game grew ever more hectic, wild, unbalanced. Michel’s cross was turned just wide by Halstenberg, threateningly, and Thorsby’s shot seemed to strike the hand of Orban, who was jeered with every touch he made, every foul, every nudge.

Haidara shot wide after 88 minutes, as the Unioner’s hearts were in their mouths. They watched the clock, they bit their nails, and Union played keep-ball, Leite moving up, Haraguchi, showing all his wiles. And they looked at the scoreboard, it still read 2-1. Even through the interminable four minutes added on, as the clock ticked and the rain came down and the noise grew louder by every single bloody second.

And it still read 2-1 as the referee blew his whistle and the Unioner chanted “Sieg” as one. Because it had to. Urs Fischer has created a devastating team, and Union appear not to be daunted by anyone. 

Union beat Leipzig

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