1. FC Union Berlin will play in the UEFA Europa Conference League group stages after a 0-0 draw (4-0 aggregate) at the Olympic Stadium against KuPS.
Urs Fischer’s side were backed by 22,159 supporters for the first home European tie since 2001 and the passage to group stage football was made safe.
Union: Luthe; Trimmel (Ryerson 70), Friedrich, Knoche, Baumgartl, Puchacz (Dehl 80); Khedira, Haraguchi (Ingvartsen 70), Teuchert; Awoniyi (Behrens 60), Becker (Voglsammer 60)
KuPS: Kreidl; Aspegren (Toivomäki 45), Tomas, Hämälänen, Carrillo; Ikaunieks, Popovich, Ajdej-Boateng, Nissila; Udoh (Rangel 45), Väyrynen (Haarala 45)
After last Thursday’s 4-0 win over KuPS in Helsinki, it was Union’s turn to host a UEFA Europa Conference League match at the Olympic Stadium. With 22,159 fans in unfamiliar territory, Urs Fischer’s side started strongly. The Swiss head coach made four changes from the draw at Hoffenheim – Christopher Trimmel (Julian Ryerson), Tymoteusz Puchacz (Niko Gießelmann), Cedric Teuchert (Levin Öztunali), Sheraldo Becker (Max Kruse) all came in for the Köpenick club. With four goals in three outings last week, Taiwo Awoniyi retained his starting place and was on the hunt for more in the opening phase. A long ball put the Nigerian through on the goalkeeper from the left, his nice lay-off set up Genki Haraguchi whose shot was well blocked. Awoniyi nearly fired home a bouncing ball but just misjudged the angle from the corner of the penalty box. On 8 minutes, the former Liverpool front man headed on target but Johannes Kreidl made a fine stop for the Finnish Cup winners of last season. Kreidl will have expected a busy evening on his visit to the German capital and he was on point to push away a strong 30-yard drive from Marvin Friedrich, who will miss Sunday’s game at home to Borussia Mönchengladbach through suspension. Although Awoniyi did put home his next opportunity on 20 minutes, the goal was ruled out for offside by the Turkish referees. Despite Union’s reasonable dominance and threat, Simo Valakari’s team created arguably the best chance of the first 45 minutes. The ball was worked into the area to number 9 Tim Vayrynen who spun towards goal but Puchacz recovered in time to his body on the line and prevent a near certain opener.
In the second, the Polish left-back nearly opened the scoring after the hour mark. Union switched the strikers around a minute before with Andreas Voglsammer and Kevin Behrens taking Awoniyi and Becker’s spots in attack. Behrens held the ball up well and created a fine opportunity for Union to break the deadlock. The ball was fired across Kreidl’s goal but Puchacz fired over the crossbar. The Austrian goalkeeper was pivotal for the away side in keeping the score blank as he saved expertly from Marvin Friedrich’s header at a corner kick on 68 minutes. At the other end, Union could rely on Andreas Luthe to step up with important saves as he did during the first leg when the Köpenick club had opened an advantage. Urho Nissila, who was suspended for the first leg in Finland, was pin-pointed by coach Fischer as a potential threat and it needed a fine save from Luthe to prevent the attacker from scoring. With Borussia Mönchengladbach to come on Sunday at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, there was always going to be some squad rotation. The captain was replaced by Ryerson on 70 minutes while Marcus Ingvartsen brought fresh legs in place of Haraguchi. A rare mistake in the defence of KuPS handed Teuchert a glaring opportunity but the striker lost his footing and looped the ball off target with just the goalkeeper to beat. Valakari’s side committed all their efforts towards picking up a victory at the Olympic Stadium despite the aggregate difference. Substitute Haarala went through alone against Luthe but the Union goalkeeper was reactive to get out and cut off the angle. Luthe pulled off an excellent save down at his left-hand corner with three minutes to go from substitute Vidjeskog. Ingvartsen struck and almost landed a fantastic goal in stoppage time, but despite no goals on the night, Union Berlin will go through to play in the group stages.