Union Berlin dispatched Europa League semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt in front of a buzzing Stadion An der Alten Försterei, beating Die Adler at home in a competitive match for the first time in the club’s history.
With both sets of fans in fine voice, the game began with the two teams exchanging periods of possession, with no clear-cut chances created in what was a quiet start to the game. Union’s effervescent Japanese playmaker Genki Haraguchi had the game’s first opportunity, with his glancing header smacking the right-hand post of the Frankfurt goal and bouncing out for a goal kick.
Moments later though, the hosts took the lead, with striker Taiwo Awoniyi finding the net in just the 17th minute of the game, after finishing composedly past Frankfurt goalkeeper Jens Grahl into the bottom right-hand corner, after latching onto to Rani Khedira’s long ball from the middle of the park. The goal though didn’t come without controversy, with the Union striker having seemingly pulled back Frankfurt defender Martin Hinteregger on his way to the ball. As the Frankfurt players protested the potential foul, Awoniyi merely reeled away in celebration with the goal unequivocally standing. His 13th of the season, Awoniyi becomes the Union player with the most goals in a single Bundesliga season, in what is only their 3rd season back in the top flight.
Just three minutes later, Grischa Prömel’s wonderful strike put the hosts 2-0 in front, once again sending the Union fans into party mode. Julian Ryerson’s overhit cross was religiously chased down by goal scorer Prömel who just managed to keep the ball in play, finding teammate Niko Gießelmann, who then lost the ball. But a sloppy pass from Frankfurt midfielder Kristijan Jakić, fell to Haraguchi, who laid the ball off nicely to Prömel, before hitting powerfully from just outside the box on the left-hand side into the top right corner of the goal, past the flailing Frankfurt keeper.
Just four days after finding themselves 3-0 up away at Barcelona, Eintracht were 2-0 down to Union Berlin after just 20 minutes. This has been the story of Frankfurt’s season – poor domestic campaign, prosperity in Europe - indicating the toll taken of playing on Thursday nights, evidenced by Frankfurt’s incredibly weary first-half display.
The second half started quietly, with the visitors’ vigour, or rather lack thereof, palpably infecting the game. Awoniyi had the chance to completely put the game to bed just after the hour mark with a fantastic opportunity in front of goal, though the striker was unable to bury it this time round. Neither side managed to fashion many chances in the final half hour of the game, with the two teams sharing a relatively equal amount of possession. As the clock ticked down towards the 90-minute mark, the liveliness of the game had completely died. They say that a 2-0 lead is a dangerous one, but at no point here did the hosts’ lead come under any threat.
With a convincing 2-0 victory, Die Eisernen remain very much on course for a European spot, toppling FC Köln and storming into 6th place. Their third consecutive Bundesliga victory, including last week’s thrashing of city rivals Hertha, Union go into their midweek DFB Pokal semi-final in fine form, believing they have every chance of making it back to the Olympiastadion. Frankfurt’s disappointing domestic season goes on and remain in 10th position. It now seems that the only way to qualify for Europe next season for Die Adler would be to win the Europa League.