1. FC Union Berlin will play European competition for the second year running following a 4-1 destruction of SC Freiburg.
An outstanding performance from Urs Fischer’s side saw the Köpenick club make Europe safe with a game to spare in the Bundesliga.
Goals from Grischa Prömel, Christopher Trimmel, Sheraldo Becker and Andras Schäfer made sure of the three points.
SC Freiburg: Flekken, Lienhart, Schlotterbeck, Eggestein, Höler, Kübler (Demirovic 83), Sallai (Schmid 79), Höfler, Jeong (Petersen 45), Günter, Grifo
1. FC Union Berlin: Luthe; Trimmel, Oczipka (Gießelmann 90), Jaeckel, Knoche, Ryerson; Haraguchi (Schäfer 65), Prömel, Khedira; Awoniyi (Behrens 65), Becker (Michel 82)
Urs Fischer had named Frederik Rönnow to start the match but the Danish goalkeeper picked up an injury in the warm-up – Andreas Luthe returned to action in his absence. Despite a 12-hour one-way trip for many supporters, the Union players were roared on for the first time at the newly-constructed, 34,000-capacity Europa Park Stadium. A header from Christopher Trimmel at a corner kick was the first warning sign that Union meant business on the penultimate weekend of Bundesliga action. Three minutes later, on 11 minutes, Sheraldo Becker put the ball terrifically across goal for Taiwo Awoniyi, the Nigerian striking against the post. Fortunately the ball went across the goal line and Grischa Prömel was there to follow up with conviction. As the fourth-ranked team in the Bundesliga pre-match, preparing for a German Cup final on May 21, Christian Streich’s side would always have their moments at home. Julian Ryerson had to make a last-ditch intervention to stop Woo-yeong Jeong from an equaliser. Vincenzo Grifo cut inside and with a trademark shot looked certain to score but Robin Knoche put his head in the way to clear. Andreas Luthe did have to pick the ball out of the net after 20 minutes as Lucas Höler controlled a long, searching ball and finished from about 10 yards out. Referee Felix Brych was alerted to a handball, however, and the experienced Bundesliga referee took away Freiburg’s equalising goal. About six minutes passed and Union started to get back into proceedings, with the second goal coming after half an hour. Becker was on the left-side of the pitch this time, but his cross was still inch-perfect for captain Trimmel to head past Flekken. Trimmel nearly set up Awoniyi for a third goal but Union’s dominance would prove too much to prevent a three-goal advantage. It was put away by Becker himself on 40 minutes after the Dutchman pounced on a loose touch from Nico Schlotterbeck. Union’s in-form attacker broke clear of the home defence and fired in his fourth goal of the league campaign. A final chance went Freiburg’s way on the stroke of half-time but Roland Sallai blazed over from close range.
It was little surprise that Freiburg would come out all guns blazing after the turnaround, spurred on by coach Streich and the home supporters. Lucas Höler shot over the top on 53 minutes before substitute Nils Petersen headed over the bar from less than a few yards out. It was then former Union defender Nico Schlotterbeck to test Luthe, shooting from 40 yards but the Union goalkeeper punched clear. The pressure piled up and a goal for the home side was more likely than a fourth Union effort. A long ball found Höler in the box and he fired past Luthe – the goal confirmed by a VAR check following an offside flag. Andras Schäfer and Kevin Behrens were introduced by Urs Fischer as Union looked to get a grip back of the match. Behrens, Becker and Schäfer almost combined on 67 minutes to make it 4-1 but Freiburg were able to clear the danger. Luthe’s goal was given a peppering by Freiburg without the Union number one having to make any particularly significant stops. Becker fired across goal on the counter attack on 75 minutes before being replaced at the conclusion by Sven Michel. Despite Freiburg’s attempts, it would be Union who would score the point-clinching goal when Andras Schäfer produced a moment of individual brilliance to fire past Flekken and score his first goal in Union colours. Victory at the Europa-Park Stadion made sure of the place in European football. What competition Union will be in next season will be decided on the final matchday of the Bundesliga campaign when VfL Bochum come to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.