RB Leipzig have now, for the first time in their young club's history, dropped three straight Bundesliga fixtures.
In a thoroughly entertaining match in East Berlin's Köpenick quarter, hosting FC Union Berlin overcame a match in which they created far more chances then they finished to earn a deserved 2-1 victory.
Two teams with quite the bit of of history in Köpenick met at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Friday night. On opening day of the 2019/20 campaign, RB Leipzig defeated Union Berlin at home in the FCU's very first Bundesliga match. The second meeting between these two clubs at the top level came on the final matchday of the 2020/21 campaign. In that encounter, a dramatic late goal from Max Kruse allowed Union Berlin to qualify for the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League.
Unaffected yet by a new attendance ordinance passed by the Berliner Senate, Union were allowed to fill their home stadium to half capacity. Union head-coach Urs Fischer deployed his usual 3-5-2, rotating in Sheraldo Becker, Julian Ryerson, and Niko Gießelmann. With both trainer Jesse Marsch and co-trainer Achim Beierlorzer in quarantine, the German Red Bulls had to rely upon the services of U19 trainer Marco Kurth to build the XI. Captain Peter Gulacsi returned in goal. Additionally, Tyler Adams, Dominik Szoboszlai, and Benjamin Henrichs returned to the lineup in a 3-4-3.
From the perspective of the 13,500 home fans in attendance, the match got off to the best possible start. After a energetic and engaging start with the ball, Ryerson crossed a short corner into the box in the 6th. Taiwo Awoniyi was able to finish it off after a clever extension from Timo Baumgartl. Unfortunately, Union's Nigerian striker was unable to find the finish on a pair of sure-fire counters in the minutes immediately thereafter.
Union were unable to build upon their 1-0 lead despite a myriad of chances. In the 13th, Christopher Nkunku made them pay. The prolific French attacker launched a hopeful effort at goal that Union keeper Andreas Luthe totally misjudged. Another mistake from the veteran backstop, who also had his shaky moments in a derby match two rounds back, dove entirely too early and the ball bounced directly over him. An undeserved 1-1 scoreline was the result.
Play continued on a relatively high level for the duration of the half, with both sides generating decent chances. Awoniyi regrettably again missed perhaps the best of them in the 34th. The hosting Köpenickers were able to consistently catch their Saxon guests out on the counter, but couldn't capitalize. Both sides had a bot of difficulty getting going after the restart with a steady snowfall beginning to fall from the Berliner sky.
Union were able to retake the lead with their second goal from a set piece in the 57th. This one saw die Eisernen benefit from a bit of luck, though one could argue that they deserved it. Kruse had a go off a Geißelmann corner, and a deflection off of Konrad Laimer sent the ball directly to Timo Baumgartl's feet. The Union defender, who played a monster match in defense, had a chance to score a rare goal as well.
Substitutes began pouring onto to the pitch with the same regularity as the snow. As a result, the match exhibited little flow until the final ten minutes. From the 80th onward, it was Urs Fischer's fresh legged players that produced a slew of opportunities to put the game to bed. After Genki Haraguchi missed a wide open opportunity in the 81st, the returning Kevin Behrens forced Gulacsi into a hard reflex save in the 83rd.
Gulacsi made another incredible save on a deflected Ryerson effort less than a minute later. End-to-end action in the final minutes left everyone on the edge of their seat. Leipzig made several incursions into the Union penalty area as the match headed into injury time. Only sensational defensive stops from Baumgartl and Gießelmann prevented Leipzig from getting the equalizer. Gießelmann's stop on Brobbey in the 89th sealed the victory.
East Berlin's "Eisern Union" have now pulled into the Bundesliga's top four, though likely only just for the night. Freiburg and Hoffenheim both stand realistic chances of overtaking them before the weekend is out. Their sixth defeat of the 2021/22 campaign keeps Leipzig stay in 8th place on 18 points. Five teams can potentially overtake them before the round is finished.
|5||M. Friedrich (C)|
|25||T. Baumgartl ⚽|
|27||S. Becker ↪80|
|14||T. Awoniyi ⚽ ↪80|
|10||M. Kruse ↪72|
|9||A. Voglsammer ↩80|
|17||K. Behrens ↩80|
|24||G. Haraguchi ↩72|
|1||P. Gulácsi (C)|
|16||L. Klostermann ↪70|
|39||B. Henrichs ↪64|
|27||K. Laimer ↪70|
|18||C. Nkunku ⚽|
|17||D. Szoboszlai ↪78|
|21||B. Brobbey ↩78|
|2||M. Simakan ↩70|
|35||S. Bonnah Owusu|
|10||E. Forsberg ↩64|
|44||K. Kampl ↩70|