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Union Berlin
Union Saint-Gilloise
S. Michel (90)
S. Lynen (39)

Union frustrated in loss to open Europa League campaign

By Jonathan Dicks   @Jonathan_Dicks

In their first Europa League group stage match, Union Berlin's disappointing play in the final third gave Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise a 1-0 win.
Urs Fischer.
Urs Fischer.Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0
In the electric and red-out Stadion An der Alten Försterei, Union Berlin began their unprecedented Europa League run against Union Saint-Gilloise. The Belgian club last participated in a European campaign in 1964, making this a very meaningful affair for both fanbases.

It was a slow start to the contest with both teams circling, but failing to find any way through their respective defenses. Striker Kevin Behrens, filling in for the injured Jordan, had Union’s best chance just past the quarter hour mark, but couldn’t find the target.

Saint-Gilloise defender Siebe Van der Heyden found the target with his head later in the half, but keeper Frederik Rønnow wasn’t overly tested. However, in a devastating counterattack, Victor Boniface found Senne Lynen which gave Saint-Gilloise the edge in the 39th minute.

The Belgian team took this 1-0 lead into halftime against the baffled capital club that only recorded one shot on target. While Urs Fischer’s side controlled more possession in the opposing half, anything sent into the box was sent right back out by Saint-Gilloise’s well-organized defense.

Saint-Gilloise could have added another to start the second period, but Dante Vanzeir's header narrowly rose over the crossbar. Union began controlling more and more of the ball, as they kept pushing to try and secure their equalizer.

Union were far and away the more progressive side, making their new home in Saint-Gilloise’s end. But, they simply couldn’t find a way through. Again and again, the German club threw themselves forward to create chances from both open and set-piece play. Yet, they lacked the finishing touch to seriously challenge Saint-Gilloise keeper Anthony Moris.

Sven Michel had several decent late chances and Sheraldo Becker’s heroics were not enough. Saint-Gilloise sat deep, packed their defense and wasted time, only threatening on the occasional counter.

Michel even received a costly red card in the 96th minute for stepping on Teddy Teuma’s ankle. It’s a frustrating result for the capital club who return to league play against Köln on Sunday. They travel to Portuguese side Braga next Thursday to continue Europa League play.

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