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Union Berlin
A. Jahanbakhsh (11), B. Linssen (29), L. Sinisterra (76)
T. Awoniyi (35)

18.45 European kickoffs:
Union overpowered in Rotterdam, Leverkusen play to draw

By Peter Vice   @ViceytheSS

On a rainy night in Rotterdam, Germany's representative in the inaugural UEFA Europa European Conference League missed out on a chance to rise to the top of their group with a win against Feyenoord. 

Instead, Union Berlin actually find themselves at the bottom of the group after a 1-3 defeat. The crucial player for the triumphant hosts proved none other than former SC Freiburg flop Guus Till. 

Meanwhile, over in Spain, former Union man Robert Andrich proved the hero for Bayer 04 Leverkusen as die Werkself salvaged a 1-1 draw against visiting Real Betis.
Taiwo Awoniyi.
Taiwo Awoniyi.
A flurry of late chances in two European club competition matches featuring Bundesliga clubs ultimately didn't alter the scoreline on Thursday evening. At the Benito Villamarin in Sevilla, Gerado Seoane's were unable to break a 1-1 deadlock despite a full fledged onslaught in the final five minutes. Over in Holland, the goal-post and a pair of clearances directly off the line spared Union Berlin greater humiliation away at Feyenoord.

Union head-coach Urs Fischer expected a tough game from the Dutch hosts. Unable to call upon defensive linchpin Marvin Friedrich (out with COVID), the Eisernen gaffer deployed a wide 3-4-3 with Grischa Prömel, Rani Khedira, and Kevin Möhwald working directly ahead of Timo Baumgartl, Robin Knoche, and Paul Jaeckel. Christopher Trimmel and Tymoteusz Puchacz functioned as wingbacks. Up top, Fischer went with the big guns in the form of a Max Kruse-Taiwo Awoniyi two-striker set.

The hosts rushed out to an early lead when former SC Freiburg midfielder Guus Til set up a Alireza Jahanbakhsh goal in the 11th minute. Bryan Linssen then doubled the advantage shortly before the half-hour-mark. There was nevertheless some hope for Union less than five minutes later when Trimmel delivered one of his excellent services from the corner flag. The ever reliable Taiwo Awonyi finished off the ball with a deft header and the German guests entered the locker room down only one goal.

Despite the fact that the match remained within reach, Feyenoord enjoyed a stark advantage in terms of chance creation. FCU keeper Andreas Luthe had to bail his side out on several occasions. Neither side really found a way through during the initial half-hour after the restart. A defensive lapse in the Union ranks saw Till once again slip through after a failed clearance. The 23-year-old Dutch international then set up Linssen for a point blank effort. Luthe paried, but Linus Sinisterra was able to bury the rebound for the decisive goal.

Elsewhere in the 18:45 European club kickoffs, Leverkusen trainer Gerardo Seoane emphasized the need for his club to demonstrate character and resilience following their 1-5 demolition at the hands of Bayern München in the league on Sunday. The B04 trainer's heavily rotated Europa League squad engaged in a very tight battle with their Spanish guests. After falling behind 0-1 courtesy of a 75th minute penalty, the Germans were able to equalize quickly courtesy of a Robert Andrich shot.

Though Germany's red company team certainly could have hoped for more than a draw, the result did ensure that they remained undefeated in the 2021/22 Europa League group stages. The Bundesliga side currently shares first place in their group with their Seville opponents. Union are, for the time being, in 4th place on goal differential halfway through the UECL group stages.

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