Europa Conference League
0 - 1
(0 - 0)
Maccabi Haifa
Union Berlin
J. Ryerson (66)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Union prevail 1-0 in Haifa to set up December showdown for UECL knockouts

A hard-fought 1-0 in Israel in Thursday night leaves Union Berlin with a clear path to the UEFA Europa Conference League knockouts, provided they can defeat group-leaders Slavia Prague in Berlin on Saturday night. 

The elimination contest proved very tight indeed, but substitute Sheraldo Becker was able to set up Julian Ryerson for the game winning goal in the 68th. 
Eisern Union travelled down to Haifa for what would crucial match in the inaugural UEFA European Conference League on Thursday evening. Though their Israeli hosts gave the German European club representatives quite the fight, Urs Fischer's men were able to prevail with a 1-0 victory.

Prior to the match, as is customary for German clubs visiting Israel, representatives from Union attended ceremonies in the country's capital.

Following some anti-Semitic incidents involving Union ultras in the home leg, Union President Dirk Zingler and a club delegation visited the Yad Veshem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on Wednesday. While the club administrators laid a wreath in the memorial hall, other club dignitaries toured the museum. FCU President Zingler lamented the fact that "anti-Semitism remains present in our society" and reflected on Union's "deep need to make this trip."

Union trainer Fischer made four changes to the starting XI that bested Hertha on Saturday night in the Berlin derby. Julian Ryerson and Tymoteusz Puchacz entered for Niko Gießelmann and the yellow-red suspended captain Christopher Trimmel. Fischer also opted for Kevin Möhwald over Grischa Prömel and gave back-up keeper Frederick Rønnow a start in goal. The formation resembled Fischer's normal 3-5-2, though wingbacks Puchacz and Ryerson were deployed wider and further back afield.

With both sides facing sure elimination with a loss, both sides proceeded cautiously during a tense first-half. Union were able to mostly control the possession game in the opening 15 minutes, but there were many passing errors and an observable lack of forward impetus. Keeper Rønnow's misplay of a pass out of the back was fortunately not punished. Ryerson and Puchacz were able to get through on their respective flanks. The organized Haifa ranks still precluded them from fashioning any chances out of their space.

After a first-half that produced no clear-cut scoring chances from either side, both sides began to get their act together during a more exciting spell between the 50th and 60th. Both head-coaches made multiple changes just after the hour mark. Haifa's Barak Bakhar opted for a double-switch while Fischer pulled the trigger on a triple change. Prömel, Gießelmann, and attacker Sheraldo Becker relieved Möhwald, Puchacz, and Genki Haraguchi in the 64th.

Becker asserted himself immediately. The Suriname international, who also looked spry in relief on Saturday, fought hard to keep a ball in play before ultimately crossing to Ryerson in the box. The Norwegian headed home for a 66th minute 1-0 lead. With their backs against the wall, Haifa did their utmost to mount a response. There were some slightly nervy moments (80th and 86th), but the Israeli hosts weren't able to cap decent offensive sequences with shots that tested Rønnow.

Die Eisernen move up to third place in the inaugural UECL Group E. The capital city from the Köpenick now has a clear path to spring 2022 European club football. If Fischer's men can beat Slavia Prague on December 9th, that will be good enough to advance to the knockouts. A draw will not suffice.

Elsewhere in the 18:45 European club competitions involving Bundesliga clubs, visiting Celtic Glasgow came close to exacting revenge on Bayer 04 Leverkusen for their spoiled "Paradise Party" back in September. The visiting Scots clung to a 2-1 advantage until the 82nd minute. A second Robert Andrich goal and a brilliant finish from Moussa Diaby in the last two minutes of normal time nevertheless saw die Werkself pull out a 3-2 victory. 

German phenom Florian Wirtz was involved in all three Leverkusen goals on the evening as part of a brilliant match. The enthralling comeback win sees Germany's red company team through to the Europa League knockouts.

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