Europe: Europa League
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Union Berlin
By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Determined Union Berlin earn dogged draw in Amsterdam

Union Berlin travelled to Amsterdam tonight as they locked horns with Dutch giants Ajax. The Köpenick club came into the game in a rich vein form having won every Bundesliga fixture in 2023. Coach Urs Fischer made two changes from the team that triumphed over Leipzig last weekend – the suspended Janik Haberer replaced by Morten Thorsby, while Jerome Roussillon was preferred Niko Gießelmann on the left.
In the sweltering Johan Cruyff Arena atmosphere, ‘Die Eisernen’ did exceptionally well to navigate those tense early moments. Although Ajax bossed the bulk of possession, it was Union who looked the more likely to score. A handful of speculative shots came the way of Becker and via the head of Doekhi. Both did little bother Gerónimo Rulli in the Ajax goal.

Union’s best effort of the half fell to Roussillon on 34 minutes. Some swift play down the right by Becker and Juranović resulted in a Thorsby shot. Devyne Rensch scrambled to block but the ball fell kindly for Union’s marauding wing-back whose shot whistled left of Rulli’s upright. No doubt Fischer would’ve been happy with his side’s effective pressing before the break – Union had amassed 8 shots on goal at this point, whilst limiting Ajax to zero.

Unhappy with their first-half showing, Ajax full-back Wijndal was withdrawn for Brian Brobbey. Ex-Leipzig man Brobbey almost made an instant impact but for Rønnow’s intervention on 51 minutes. Union were not without promising attacks of their own. Behrens and Juranović linked up to find Thorsby who ought to have done better with his head. The Norwegian midfielder thought he had given the Köpenick side the lead on 65 minutes. However, VAR and Turkish arbiter Halil Meler cut short Eisern celebrations as a handball was spotted.

Jordan did replace Behrens with just over 20 to play. So too did Sven Michel as former Ajax man Sheraldo Becker was called ashore on 82 minutes. By this stage it was backs against the wall for Union as Fischer looked to hold what they had. Danilo Doekhi the impenetrable figure in the defensive ranks, as a 0-0 draw leaves it all to play for in the second-leg at Alte Försterei.

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