Union ran out resounding winners in the second of Saturday's friendlies against FC Augsburg, with goals coming from Kevin behrens and Jamie Leweling, as well as a brace for Sven Michel.
1. FC Union Berlin: Rönnow – Trimmel, Jaeckel, Leite, Ryerson – Seguin, Kemlein – Leweling, Michel (67. Bruns), Skarke (46. Möhwald) - Behrens
FC Augsburg: Lubik – Framberger, Bauer, Winther, Zehnter – Caligiuri, Kücüksahin, Petkov – Engels (76. Mbila), Ivanovic (60. Niederlechner), Cordova (46. Kömür)
Goals: 1-0 Michel (12), 2-0 Behrens (25), Leweling (34), Michel (38)
There was barely pause for thought, a moment to think before Saturday’s second game for 1. FC Union was ready to kick-off, but there they were at 3pm. And as predicted, they were lining up with four at the back. Christopher Trimmel and Julian Ryerson either side of Diogo Leite and Paul Jaeckel as old fashioned full-backs. Paul Seguin and Aljoscha Kemlein - who seems to have grown as a player so much over the last couple of weeks, such is the immediate benefit of a break from the regular season - in midfield, with Tim Skarke and Jamie Leweling on the flanks. Sven Michel took up what looked to be an old-fashioned number 10 role behind that old-fashioned number nine himself, Kevin Behrens.
A system looking like one thing, though, does not mean that is exactly that. Michel would drift in and out, appearing in one place before suddenly popping up in another, just like that. And despite his diving header in the first few minutes, and his superbly headed first-half goal, giving him the appearance of one, Behrens is far more than a big old number nine.
Fischer has been toying with this strategy all through pre-season with varying degrees of success. But after the Pauli game before Christmas, he had said that it was never going to be an immediate winner, the number one hit of the winter. Such a thing would be impossible, particularly when you have a squad so moulded to their usual system, so grooved in its ways so that they can often play with their eyes shut, knowing where their teammates will be through telepathy and routine alone.
The rigour with which he has been working his team to instil this flexibility was evidenced by the sight of the white dotted boxes on the pitch, dividing it up like the lines on a map of the former British Empire.
And it showed, the endless drills, the tireless work had paid off. Union were superb in the first half.
The pitch itself had cut up from the previous exertions just played out upon it, making life just a little harder for those inclined to get the ball down and play, but it was firm and fast. The cliffs around reminding the Unioner slightly of the cavernous Stadio Municipal in Braga (though the situation was a little more relaxed than that particular evening), while the banners behind the goal – Wildauer Kickers, Hammerhearts, the eternally present Halle S. – told stories of home.
It was also good to see Frederik Rönnow back in goal, though few would have wanted his return to have to involve making a superb stop at the feet of Lukas Petkov as early as he did. He stood up as long as possible as the Augsburger bore down on him, smothering the ball as he took to the floor at the perfect moment.
Union exuded confidence, and relished the spaces the new system gave them to advance, Behrens running head-long at Maximilian Bauer after 20 minutes being a perfect case in point. But it was through a slice of outrageous fortune that they would take the lead after 10 minutes, Michel being on the receiving end of a deflection following a mix up after a set-piece. But, to Fischer’s great pleasure, he took full use of his opportunity. Only a few yards out he kept his head, slotting the ball home to the keepers left.
Despite the occasional Augsburg sortie, Union were in complete control, pressing hard, tackling cleanly. Kemlein and Skarke played around the Augsburg midfield with sharp, crisp passing. They were using their width, as when Paul Jaeckel advanced up the right hand side after 25 minutes, holding off his man. He hit a perfectly weighted ball towards the back post as if tailor made for Behrens to head home.
Leweling burst into the box after that, cutting in from the right, and was certain he had a penalty on half an hour when bundled over in the box by Aron Zehnter, but the referee wouldn’t have a thing of it. His later shot was then smothered after a superb three against two break, having dallied on the ball a little too long.
Leweling would get his goal though when again Union found themselves outnumbering Augsburg on the break from midfield, this time Behrens with the ball at his toe on the left hand side. He looked up where he saw Leweling racing into the box at the back post. His cross was sure, his aim was true, and all he had to do was meet it in the air to make things 3-0 for Union with still ten minutes of the half to play.
He tried to return the favour, hitting a high ball to Behrens, but his header flew just wide, gathered by the clutch of Unioner sitting in the long grass behind the goal there, revelling in the freedom Union were being given, in the closeness to their heroes as the warm Spanish breeze blew around them.
Those Unioner, with their red T-shirts and their black sunglasses and their smiles spread across their faces as wide as could be, would see Michel make it four before half time as he beat an Augsburg defender tracking him inside out. He cut in from the left again, finishing with the inside of his left foot with a flourish.
He missed an easier chance later though, falling on his back, making a grass angel of disappointment in the short, crabby blades beneath him. Personal pride apart, it mattered little. The second half meandered along as easily as a dream, and he’d depart with 25 minutes to go, his replacement Mathis Bruns taking to the pitch carrying a note on which the next tactical switch was jotted.
The youngster held up a couple of fingers to complete the message. Though they will face sterner tests than this, and they still have a lot of hard work to do for the next week of this camp, Fischer was now happy enough with what he’d seen, and he said as much after the game, stressing the need to be able to mix things up if need be. So, they could go for the first time to a back five now.
The report for the first game can be read here