Union Berlin have one foot in the inaugural group stage of the UEFA Europa Conference League after winning the first-leg of their qualifying playoff against Kuopion Palloseura in Helsinki.
In front of--is has been been estimated--some 350 traveling supporters, Urs Fischer's Eisernen were clinical in front of goal Thursday evening in Helsinki. The FC Union trainer demonstrated a clear intent to take the match seriously by making only two changes to the XI that debuted last weekend in the Bundesliga just two days ahead of the club's next match.
New Acquisition Tymoteusz Puchacz made his club debut while fellow newcomer Levin Öztunali made his first start in Union colors. Niko Gießelmann and Marcus Ingvartsen made way for the new players. Genki Haraguchi, Max Kruse, and Taiwo Awoniyi retained their positions in attack.
Sticking to the big guns paid off early, with Puchacz and Kruse playing a beautiful one-two in the 7th minute before the Pollack hit Awoniyi with an excellent cross on the opening goal. The Finnish underdogs kept up a courageous response after falling behind early, but were eventually worn down by a much quicker Union side that forced them into several tactical fouls.
Awoniyi set up Kruse to double the advantage in the 29th, with Kruse then returning the favor for an Awoniyi brace less than two minutes later. Play continued on watchable level for the duration of the half, with the German guests downshifting noticeably after the restart. Lead strikers Kruse and Awoniyi were given the rest of the night off shortly before the hour mark.
Another new Union arrival, Andreas Voglsammer formerly of Arminia Bielefeld, was able to open his club account with a fourth goal at 90+2. A four-goal advantage (all away goals) effectively ends the impressive ride of the Finnish team through the qualifying stages.
The two sides will meet again one week from tonight in Berlin's Olympiastadion mostly as a formality.