Union Berlin have snapped a 12-match-losing streak and ended a run of five consecutive fixtures without scoring a goal. A 1-1 draw against Serie A Champions SSC Napoli still won't be good enough to see the team through to the UCL knockouts
|Photo: Илья Хохлов, Football.ua, CC BY-SA 3.0
Union trainer Fischer made five changes to the side that suffered their 12th consecutive defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the league on Saturday. Robin Knoche, Christopher Trimmel, Alex Kral, Robin Gosens, and Benedikt Hollerbach made way for Paul Jaeckel, Josip Juranovic, Jerome Roussillon, Rani Khedira, and Janik Haberer. Fischer's charges - having lined up in a 3-4-3 on Saturday - shifted to a 3-5-2 against the Italian champions.
The collective team posture of the German UCL representatives in the opening minutes could be described as "adequate". Die Eisernen kept a compact defensive shape and forced many fouls out of their hosts. The Italians controlled more of possession, but weren't able to achieve a significant breakthrough until André-Frank Zambo Anguissa scored the supposed 1-0 at the half-hour-mark.
The goal was eventually disallowed after video evidence confirmed that Anguissa had fouled Roussillon in the aerial duel preceding the tally. Union exhibited signs of an offensive awakening in the minutes following the ruling, yet Napoli were ultimately able to score the opening goal nine minutes later. Matteo Politano chested in a failed Juranovic clearance for the 1-0 in the 39th.
To their immense credit, the German guests pressed hard in search of an equalizer. Several promising incursions into Napoli territory eventually culminated in Juranovic striking the pot at 45+7. The Berliners remained active and creative after the break. David Datro Fofana scored what felt like a most deserved equalizer in the 52nd, polishing off a Sheraldo Becker rebound from close range.
Becker himself came within inches of netting the 2-1 three minutes later. A generally much more confident FCU carried the momentum from the goal over the intervening minutes. Becker, Juranovic, Trimmel and Aïssa Laïdouni all saw efforts blocked. The Köpenickers ran out of steam with about ten minutes of normal time remaining and had to focus more on defending down the stretch.
The subbed-on Lucas Tousart came close to helping Union bag all three points with a narrowly missed distance effort at 90+1. Most of the action in second half stoppage time nevertheless took place at the other end. Disciplined defending and a fine save from keeper Fredrick Rønnow at 90+5 at least ensured that Union could celebrate something other than a defeat for the first time in two months.