There was nothing to complain about in the strong first half of the season for 1. FC Union, but there were several improvements. The success rate by their own standards had significantly decreased compared to the previous year and the risk of the midfielder scoring was small. In Saturday’s first game in the second half of the season at Bayer Leverkusen, the Berliners worked extremely well in both problem areas. After Grisch Prömel’s poor performance so far, the central midfielder equalized just before the break and took the lead shortly thereafter. Both goals were scored from set pieces.
As Leverkusen equalized shortly before the end and Bastian Oczipka hit the post in stoppage time, Union started the second half of the season with a lead of 2-2 (1-1). “If you still concede in the final phase, you are obviously irritated, precisely because we had one or two times back then where we had to score,” said Prömel. “But the Leverkusen point is fine.”
Contrary to some other Bundesliga clubs, staffing problems in the Union have so far been limited in number. With Sheraldo Becker and Paweł Wszolek, two players are currently in quarantine and Taiwo Awoniya’s top scorer is getting ready for the African Nations Cup. In terms of quality, however, this represents a significant loss for Berliners as Becker and Awoniya are missing at the top, two of Max Kruse’s favored clients of inspiration glimpses. That role should be taken by Kevin Behrens by now. Moreover, Niko Gießelmann and Genki Haraguchi entered the starting eleven.
While Leverkusen also had to cope without important players, they did better in the early stages. The hosts were dominating, they had a lot of ball possession and a clear advantage of speed on the flanks. In the first quarter of an hour, Union had huge problems with this, especially when Leverkusen was quickly looking for depth.
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Marvin Friedrich just stopped Patrik Schick from finishing in the fourth minute. A little later, the Czech goalscorer was unable to get the ball out of Moussa Diaba’s cross, and Andreas Luthe saved his chest. Less than a minute later, the UEFA goalkeeper saved Florian Wirtz’s shot, and Jonathan Tah headed past the goal with a surprisingly unchallenged header after a corner. At this point, only eleven minutes had been played, but Fischer looked worried on the bench, and for good reason. “In the first half we didn’t really have everything we planned,” the coach said.
Even though Leverkusen could only rarely develop this huge move towards the goal after a strong early stage, coach Gerardo Seoane’s team was superior in all respects – which wasn’t too difficult given Berlin’s lack of ideas. Far too soon, Union was looking for the long ball to the top, where Kruse and Behrens were completely in the air. In addition, Gießelmann had to be replaced earlier due to a muscle injury in the posterior thigh; Oczipka came for him.
Leverkusen’s goal late in the first half was not really on target, but it was completely well deserved. Kerem Demirbay quickly took a free-kick from his own half and the ball landed in front of the goal by Schick, Diaby and Paulinho. Luthe was saved first, but was powerless against the Schick margin. The situation was similar just before the half-time whistle, but so did Leverkusen’s goalkeeper. Following a corner, Christopher Trimmel scored from the rear in his 250th game for Union, Lukas Hradecky parried the ball and also had his hands on the ball when Behrens headed the ball but couldn’t prevent Prömel’s rebound.
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The equalizer was flattering, but gave the game an unlikely twist. Fischer gave new impetus with the changes of Andreas Voglsammer and Levin Öztunala, and shortly after the break, Leverkusen sleepily saved a set piece. So Kruse was over and Prömel pushed the ball over the line. “In the second half, we played as I imagine: courage and conviction,” Fischer said.
The hosts seemed restless now, and it took almost a quarter of an hour to regain their composure. They created a few opportunities, but Luthe made some strong defenders. Union missed some promising counterattacks and was unlucky when Kruse scored the crossbar. The game remained open – and Jonathan Tah scored a well-deserved equalizer, assisted by Karim Bellarabi. (teaspoon)