Germany: Bundesliga
2 - 0
(0 - 0)
Union Berlin
P. Tietz (47), S. Michel (81)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Augsburg take another stride towards Europe with blanking of Union

Another huge home win for FC Augsburg got the 2023/24 German Bundesliga's matchday off to an intriguing start. Three points for the Fuggerstädter heats up a race between four clubs all hunting two European slots in the league table. 

FC Augsburg have leapt ahead of two other Bundesliga sides who entered the weekend tied with them on 36 points in the increasingly competitive race for the second Europa League and Europa Conference League playoff spot. Jess Thorup's Fuggerstädter got back to winning ways with an immensely significant home win Friday night under the lights. A 2-0 win over Nenad Bjelica's 1. FC Union Berlin puts pressure on SC Freiburg and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim to produce wins tomorrow. Augsburg are currently three points ahead of both clubs in seventh place. The Bavarian Swabians also trail Eintracht Frankfurt in sixth by only three points. 

Bjelica was forced to make three changes to the team that narrowly lost to Leverkusen last week. Midfielder Lucas Tousart and wingback Robin Gosens had to sit out the match suspended. Lead-striker Yorbe Vertessen remained unavailable with a thigh injury. The FCU trainer opted to introduce two new strikers in Benedict Hollerbach and Mikkel Kaufmann while Alex Kral took over Tousart's place in the XI. After some talk of deploying Jannik Haberer in the left wingback slot, Bjlecia opted to move Andras Schäfer over to Gosens' position. 

Thorup not only received none of his injured actors from last week back, but also had to cope with the loss of Kristijan Jakic; the base-sweeper in his 4-4-2 diamond. Thorup stuck with Tim Breithaupt, the player who replaced Jakic last week in the loss against Hoffenheim. Thorup retained the 4-4-2 shape he switched back to after Hoffenheim rushed out to what would prove an insurmountable lead. Maximilian Bauer maintained his novel deployment at right-back Arne Maier and Arner Engels paired as support axis attackers for the second consecutive week.

Matters got off to a lively enough start, with Union's two strikers managing to find their way through on a couple of occasions in the opening quarter-of-an hour. FCA center backs Jefferey Gouweleeuw and Felix Uduokhai were called upon to to make emergency clearances in front of their keeper. An Uduokhai intervention robbed Union of their best chance to score in the 27th. Augsburg's former Germany U21 star slide studded a Kaufmann pass headed straight for a wide open Kral in front of net. 

Union were able to generate another scoring chance via a clever move from Brenden Aaraonson in the 33rd. Apart from that, there wasn't much doing from either side in a game that frequently lost its tempo. The Bavarian Swabian hosts were certain to be the more disappointing side, having created nothing in front of goal to give their hometown fans to cheer about. That changed shortly after the restart when the Fuggerstädter were able to grab the lead with their first chance of the game. 

A disastrous pass out of the back from FCU defender Diogo Leite gifted FCA striker Philipp Tietz a chance all alone in front of keeper Frederik Rønnow. The former Darmstadt star kept his cool and easily slotted home the 48th-minute 1-0. Thorup's crew pressed hard in pursuit of the second goal, sometimes looking a little vulnerable on the counter. Union's lively American Aaronson created a pair of chances headed back the other way, in both cases stopped by precise tackling from Thorup's defensive ranks. 

Augsburg continued to knock non the door with shots that tested Rønnow until former Köpenick striker Sven Michelfinally netted the 2-0 in the 82nd. Maier set up just the second league goal for the sparsely used summer signing. Union threatened to pull a goal back as proceedings drew to a close. Again, Aaronson found his way into the box on a pair of occasions. The hosts were able to preserve the clean sheet in large part due to strong tackles from Uduokhai, Goweeleuw, and their other rarely used summer signing Breithaupt.

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