The simple means of Union Berlin are enough to disenchant the much praised game of the leader Borussia Monchengladbach.
Somehow away with it: Union goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz in action Photo: dpa
Again. Tabellenfuhrerbesieger. Now they can start printing T-shirts for the Christmas trade with this word at Union Berlin. One was again stunned at the Alte Forsterei. On the third matchday, the promoted team had beaten the then league leader Borussia Dortmund 3:1, followed on the twelfth matchday by a 2:0 win against the current leaders Borussia Monchengladbach. Once again, something incredible had happened in Kopenick. And yet pretty much everything was different than at the beginning of the season. Union is no longer ridiculed, not even by the best teams in the league. The promoted team has earned respect.
After the game, the amazement at what was happening in southeast Berlin continued. The highly praised leader from the Lower Rhine had just lost at Union, and no one in the visitors’ entourage was really disappointed. The players talked as if they had narrowly lost a duel with a top team. "We tried to fight back," Gladbach’s sports director Max Eberl said there, for instance. And: "We tried very, very well to hold our own." Or: "Union played incredibly good soccer."
Midfielder Florian Neuhaus was almost proud of his team’s performance: "We kept running." And colleague Christoph Kramer was also quite satisfied with his team’s play. "That wasn’t a performance after which you say, boah, how is this supposed to go on now."
What had happened? The team from the league leader had traveled to Berlin with a four-point lead over the second-place team. In recent weeks, their club’s play had been praised to the skies. Above all, the counter-pressing was raved about. The fact that this kind of nail-biting soccer, which thrives primarily on preventing opponents from building up play, can lead to first place says a lot about the quality of the league.
The fact that Gladbach’s style only led to three real scoring chances against a club like Union, which was rather modest in terms of play, and that they were no longer dangerous at all in the second half, can also be seen as proof that what Florian Neuhaus said after the game is true. "We are not yet as far as we were partly written." In truth, it was a sad performance that Monchengladbach put on there.
Ball in the stands
Union coach Urs Fischer was certainly proud of the performance of his players, who, he said, had implemented his match plan well. His plan was to play long balls forward in the hope that one of the strikers would grab a rebound. It almost seemed embarrassing to him that it could be so easy to shut down the counter-pressing machine so feared by others with an almost primitive means. "From a purely footballing point of view, I didn’t think the soccer was that great from our side," he said. How much that must have annoyed can be inferred from this sentence from Gladbach’s Christoph Kramer: ""Well, counterpressing. It just wasn’t that easy to get the ball back to us quickly either, because the ball landed somewhere in the stands right away."
The home crowd can live well with that. They cheered for the first time in the 18th minute when a defender drilled the ball into somewhere with a juicy clearance. Shortly before, Union had taken the lead after winning the ball in midfield, a quick pass forward, a cross and a header by Anthony Ujah. Immediately before that, in turn, Union defender Manuel Friedrich had tried in vain to set up the game in a planned manner. He quickly saw that this was pointless and preferred to give the Gladbachers a throw-in instead.
No, it was really not a nice day for all those who love the game more than the fight. The fact that 1. FC Union was also praised by the losers for these means from the time of Stone Age soccer, applied with all passion, as if it were a top team, is remarkable. Red and white fans, of course, can not care about such things. In injury time, Sebastian Andersson even scored the 2:0 goal. It was allowed to cry again at the Alte Forsterei. Again.