1. FC Union Berlin: Frederik Rönnow, Diogo Leite, Robin Knoche, Timo Baumgartl, Christopher Trimmel – Janik Haberer (Morton Thorsby), Rani Khedira, Andras Schäfer (Milos Pantovic) – Jordan Siebatcheu (Kevin Behrens), Sheraldo Becker (Jamie Leweling)
Borussia Dortmund: Gregor Kobel – Niko Schlotterbeck, Mats Hummels, Niklas Süle – Raphael Guererro, Salih Özcan (Marco Reus), Emre Can (Giovanni Reyna), Jude Bellingham, Thomas Meunier (Julian Brandt)– Youssoufa Moukoko, Karim David Adeyemi (Donyell Malen)
Goals: Janik Haberer (8‘, 21‘)
Attendance: 22,012 (Sold out)
1.FC Union Berlin blew Borussia Dortmund away during a dominant and confident display that will send shockwaves through European football. For this victory, inspired by Janik Haberer’s two first half goals, has shown that they are far from a flash in the pan.
Union utterly dominant, the Alte Försterei a riot, 2-0 up at half time.
This was Union’s eighth game in five weeks since the win over Köln, a run that had seen them play in three different countries, in two different competitions. Urs Fischer had addressed this before the visit of Borussia Dortmund, of course. He said how hard it is when they come so thick and fast, but then he also said that winning always makes the legs feel a little stronger, the head clearer, the dreams sweeter and the sleep a little deeper.
He wouldn’t complain about it. This was, as he said, what Union had wanted all along. It was actually a privilege, the consequence of unprecedented success. Though this was barely reflected in the team he sent out, the only changes to Thursday’s historic win against Malmö being the return of Timo Baumgartl on the right hand side of his back three, and Andras Schäfer’s return to the midfield.
And if his charges were tired on a beautifully sunny, late Autumn afternoon in southeast Berlin, it didn’t show during a first half in which they looked every bit the top team in the land. The Alte Försterei was loud and it was boisterous and it was full of hope. As were Union, themselves. Accordingly, they started keenly.
Timo Baumgartl immediately found Trimmel who slotted a ball through to Sheraldo Becker, getting in behind the returning Niko Schlotterbeck. His cross found Jordan in the box but he was muscled off the ball by Mats Hummels. Christopher Trimmel then showed his sharpness to get in ahead of Karim Adeyemi. The superb Rani Khedira did the same to Emre Can. Union certainly weren’t overawed by their more garlanded opponents. In fact, quite the opposite.
Andras Schäfer drove at the Dortmund backline, his shot scuffed by the keeper. The corner worked its way out eventually to Becker on the left now - he drifted wherever the ball would pop up, he was somehow everywhere, a constant menace. His driven shot from outside the box flew not too far over the bar.
And then after only eight minutes it paid off, the Dortmund keeper, Gregor Köbel, with a horror show, a moment that will haunt him for days to come. He mis-controlled a regulation ball, leaving Janik Haberer to score only his second goal in Union’s colours with the easiest of tap-ins. On the anniversary of Wilhelm Voigt, the Hauptmann von Köpenick’s great act of romantic theft, it felt somehow fitting. Haberer almost looked guilty as he finished, like it was unjust, like he was taking candy from a baby.
Union were all over Dortmund, who looked spooked, their passes not connecting, their movements flustered. But after 15 minutes, Baumgartl was booked for a late lunge on Adeyemi. It was dangerous, twenty yards out, in the middle of the goal. The crowd roared though, and Jude Bellingham clipped the free kick over the bar without threatening Rönnow’s goal.
And then after 20 minutes it was two. The ever lively Schäfer drove through the middle, he found Jordan who held the ball up beautifully, skilfully, with the strength of ten men, as he’s been doing quietly, and not so quietly, all season long. It is in this work that he has been so important to Union, one of the first names on Fischer’s list. He laid it off for Haberer who shot first time, low and hard, inside the left hand post. Köbel stood no chance. It was utterly deserved
On the stroke of half an hour it could have even been more. In the space of a minute as janik haberer slipped Becker through, he was suddenly away, in his favoured position, he opened his body up and bent the ball past Köbel but over the bar. Then Jordan was almost free. Julian Ryerson hit one wide from the edge of the box. Ryerson wouldn’t give up. He’d been clattered in a fifty-fifty with Adeyemi. He got barged over by Bellingham on one typical dash down the left, he got up with the ball at his toe and got barged over by Niklas Süle.
Dortmund couldn’t force things, they were outmuscled up front, and even when Moukoko turned, carving himself space to shoot, he put it straight at Rönnow.
Dortmund with no answer, Union ascendant.
Edin terzic made three attacking changes at half time, desperate to try and shift the momentum of the game, with Marko Reus, Julian Brandt and Donyell Malen coming on. But still Union poured it on. Schäfer ran thirty yards, suffering from having maybe even too much time on his hands to make the decisive pass. Then Schlotterbeck had to bring Jordan down as he turned him, threatening to be free to run at goal. Baumgartl drew a sharp stop from Köbel at the near post.
On the hour Becker glided past Niklas Süle, but his cross evaded the attentions of Jordan as he came in towards the near post. Two minutes later he did the same to Emre Can, turning him inside out. The Surinamese superstar punched the air in frustration as his cross came to nothing again. Meanwhile, though, Jordan was down, holding his knee, a look of pain on his face. He limped off, assisted but shrugged the pain aside. He was back on the pitch within a minute but it wouldn’t last. He trudged off the pitch again, replaced by Kevin Behrens.
And no matter how Dortmund tried, they couldn’t get back into the game. A rare moment of patient play around the box was ended when Ryerson again was there to bully Thorgan Hazard, this time, off the ball. Ryerson had been immense, always there when needed, never ducking a challenge. Bellingham resorted to shooting from distance while off balance, outside the box. It was again easily claimed by Rönnow.
As the game entered the last ten minutes Dortmund finally had more of the ball. But they couldn’t make it count. Knoche headed Hazard’s cross away easily. Diogo Leite, quietly and unfussily going about his business as he had done all day, shepherded Reus away and out of danger. Moukoko shot at Rönnow. And then they broke, Behrens shrugging off Can, brushing him off his shoulder. Rönnow saved from Moukoko again, and again, and again.
It was all summed up in the end by the image of World Cup winner Mats Hummels kicking the post in frustration as the clock entered the final minute after yet another cross had sailed harmlessly into the steady hands of Rönnow. The seas had changed, the world turned on its axis.
There are few superlatives left to describe what this side had achieved, not just in this victory, but all season long so far. As they were roared on by their magnificent, adoring fans. There was nothing else left to say, the remaining image being the tears in the eyes of the Unioner who never dreamed that this could, let alone would happen to their club.
So the next rush of games can roll on. With all that confidence that has been instilled in them, and the joy that each and every win, one after another, brings, Urs Fischer knows his side are ready for them all.
And they’ll certainly sleep well tonight.