Champions League Perplexed Unioners celebrated like winners: “There’s a worm in it”
The Union Berlin players were celebrated by their fans after the defeat. photo
© Andreas Gora/dpa
The sporting crisis at 1. FC Union Berlin is getting worse. The Champions League game against Braga ends like the premiere in Madrid: with a late goal. The players seem helpless.
On the pitch, the disappointed professionals of 1. FC Union Berlin looked helplessly into the Berlin night sky. In the stands, over 73,000 Köpenick fans celebrated their team like winners for minutes.
The fact that the Iron Men had recently lost their second Champions League game at the last second, 2:3 (2:1) against SC Braga, could not even be guessed at this sight. But the numbers speak for themselves. Two defeats in the premier class, twice more would have been possible: bottom of the table in Group C with zero points.
“There’s a worm in there. It just doesn’t want to happen,” said midfielder Janik Haberer as he shuffled through the interview zone in flip-flops. The 29-year-old had no real explanation for his sixth competitive defeat in a row. “Sure, exploiting chances is somehow an issue,” said Haberer hesitantly, referring to the numerous scoring opportunities in the final phase. Even after the 2-0 lead, the Köpenick team could still have improved. Instead, they had to accept the equalizer and later the defeat. “We are currently conceding goals from every shot on goal. It eats at you,” admitted the midfielder.
Union coach Fischer struggles with exploiting opportunities
Everything had started so well. Sheraldo Becker (30th minute/37th) scored Berlin’s celebrated premiere goal in the premier class. Sikou Niakaté (41st), Armindo Bruma (51st) and André Castro (90th +4) turned the game around. “I count three 100% opportunities to take the lead again. And with the three goals we conceded, we simply didn’t defend well,” said Union coach Urs Fischer.
In order to offer as many Union players as possible a ticket, the capital club moved to the venue of local rivals Hertha. Arriving at the arena, fans saw a brave start from their team. There was no trace of uncertainty after five competitive defeats.
After Kevin Behrens failed from a promising position, Becker finally took advantage of his second big chance after a counterattack – and scored the first Champions League goal in the Union club’s history. As a result, the captain really turned up the heat and finished confidently after the next perfect counterattack. The efficiency that was missing in the Bundesliga was back – that’s what Union fans thought at the time. The goal conceded by Niakaté came out of nowhere.
Castro scores shortly before the end
After the break, the guests from southern Europe pushed for the equalizer. Not much came of the game, so a well-rehearsed standard had to help: After a long corner, the ball landed at ex-Leipziger Bruma, who shot the ball into the corner of the goal from around 25 meters. Union was unsettled. The self-confidence from the initial phase was gone.
The game tipped over and Union had more and more problems with the Portuguese’s offensive game. Goalkeeper Frederik Rönnow (61st) prevented a deficit. Now the players with Champions League experience were particularly required and coach Fischer brought in Kevin Volland. The center forward, who has already made many premier league appearances with Bayer Leverkusen, promptly finished from a central position, but hit Braga keeper Matheus exactly (70th).
Cheered on by loud chants, the Iron team ran tirelessly in the final phase. But Brenden Aaronson (86th) only headed next to the goal. Braga defended passionately and even managed to win at the last second with a low shot from Castro.