1. FC Union Berlin: Lennart Grill – Tymoteusz Puchacz, Diogo Leite, Robin Knoche, Danilho Doekhi, Julian Ryerson – Janik Haberer (Genki Haraguchi), Paul Seguin (Morton Thorsby), Andras Schäfer (Niko Giesselmann) – Sven Michel (Kevin Behrens), Sheraldo Becker (Tim Skarke)
1. FC Heidenheim: Vitus Eicher – Jonas Föhrenbach, Patrick Mainka, Tim Siersleben, Marnon Busch (Marvin Lee Ritmüller) – Lennard Maloney, Norman Theuerkauf (Adrian Beck) – Jan-Niklas Beste (Stefan Schimmer), Kevin Sessa (Dzenis Burnic), Andreas Geipl – Tim Kleindienst (Christian Kuhlwetter)
Goals: 1-0, Puchacz (7). 2-0, Michel (57)
And the Union train just keeps a-rolling on. They beat spirited opponents in FC Heidenheim 2-0, with goals from Sven Michel and Tymoteusz Puchacz.
Union stronger, take an early lead. Urs Fischer had said FC Heidenheim weren’t to be taken lightly, whether they were fourth in the 2. Liga playing at the home of the Bundesliga table-toppers or not. He had bad memories of them, of the loss away in his first season in Köpenick, of the near loss that was rescued only in the 94th minute by keeper Rafal Gikiewicz’s remarkable headed equaliser against them here later that season.
But he’d also said that rotation was necessary. Danilho Doekhi came into the back three, joined by Tymoteusz Puchacz, (a man with recent league winning success at Trabzonspor, lest we forget) at left wingback. Paul Seguin was in the middle to give Rani Khedira a breather, and Sven Michel came in for Jordan Siebatcheu.
And after the final whistle, both Michel and Puchacz would be celebrating more than their returns to the squad.
Behind them all, anchoring the side with a spot between the sticks, was Lennart Grill.
Grill got his first touch early, as Union pinged the ball around with confidence, moving it from side to side, always looking, moving and shaking. Whereas they were happy to let Dortmund have the ball at the weekend, Union had it in spades now. They exuded confidence, they were happy in control.
And almost immediately they made it count. The captain Julian Ryerson, in place of Christopher Trimmel, Seguin and and Andras Schäfer were all involved in the build up as Union showed their intent and pace, showing their capabilities and invention on the ball.
After only seven minutes Sheraldo Becker jinked past his man on the right, he chipped a delightful ball towards the back post where Puchachz was all alone. The keeper, Vitus Eicher had been drawn out of position to the ball like he’d been caught in the stare of a snake charmer. All the Polish fullback had to do was volley it into the net with the side of his foot. But he hit it with real brutality, the frustration, maybe, of his time spent on the bench unleashed immediately, taken out on something or someone.
Becker hit an almost identical one just a couple of minutes later after bewitching the Heidenheim midfielder, Norman Theuerkauf, with a step-over, a shake of his hips, a drag back and a burst. This one came to nothing. Becker was having fun though. He dragged a shot wide from 25 yards just after that, too.
But Heidenheim weren’t here to be humiliated. This was the cup, after all. And as Fischer had warned that every dog can have his day in a knock-out tie, they also know their history here. Grill was drawn into a superb reflex stop after a full blooded drive from Andreas Geipl, fisting the ball over for a corner. Jonas Föhrenbach bent one with his left from way out on the right, through the crowd in the box where it would have just needed a touch from a Heidenheim player to put it in. After almost half an hour Kevin Sessa thought he’d been brought down by Leite in the box, but the referee, Florian Badstübner, waved his claims away withoput so much as a second thought. Geipl hit another, full-blooded from even further out, but Grill was equal to it.
But as the half wore on Union were pouring down the left, first Michel and Puchacz combining, then Haberer doing it on his own. Danilho Doekhi flashed a header from another Puchachz set-piece just wide of the back post. Leite flicked one towards goal from inside the box but it was deflected away.
Michel should have probably done better after just over half an hour when he rose to flick a header from Ryerson’s deep cross wide. He’d shaken his man, he just had to guide it home. And just before the half time whistle Puchacz conjured up another cross from out there on the left which Becker headed into Eicher’s hands.
Union control the second half, double their lead.
Union started the second half with the look in their eyes and the spring in their steps that implied they were looking to settle things quickly. Inside five minutes Paul Seguin robbed Jonas Föhrenbach and set Becker through into his favoured channel, on the right, bearing down on goal, but Eicher managed to get a toe to his shot before it could roll inside the back post. Then Julian Ryerson then hit a delicious curling cross that Michel rose to meet but headed just wide of the keepers’ left hand post.
But it was 2-0 after 57 minutes when Sven Michel made it right, his luck changing, with a controlled looping header over the keeper. It had all come from another passage of neat, sharp passing, another superb cross from the right. Heidenheim were left with no response; it had been coming. Michel held up Jakob Busk’s shirt to celebrate. The third keeper has been a cornerstone of the squad since the 2. Liga, and the image showed the togetherness in this squad, the sense of collective that Fischer has instilled in his charges. It was a beautiful moment, as well as a symbolic one.
Union were rampant now. Only Mainka’s lunge stopped another Becker shot, Eicher’s superb stop thwarting Robin Knoche, fresh from scoring the winner against Dortmund. Puchacz thought he had a penalty when barged over by Marnon Busch. Michel thought he had one when tackled by Busch. Haberer had a header cleared off the line.
Heidenheim’s long-term coach Frank Schmidt made four changes after an hour, but he was papering over the cracks by this point. There were ole’s all around as Leite held off Dzenis Burnic again and again when at almost the opposition corner flag. There was a chill in the Autumn air, and a celebration in the stands.
The Unioner were singing their name to the tune of Amazing Grace, and, oh, how sweet was that sound. Every match seems to bring new highs, every opportunity for this side to show the world they mean business is used.
Heidenheim fought to a man. To their great credit, they never gave up. Christian Kühlwetter had possibly their best chance of the night as he shot just wide with a quarter of an hour to go. But they’d been outplayed a team on top of their game, on top of the world.
And Union go into the pot for the third round, their destiny on three fronts entirely in their own hands.