The Bundesliga returned to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei behind closed doors on Sunday, but 1. FC Union Berlin couldn't take the scalp of champions Bayern Munich who ran out 2-0 winners.
Urs Fischer's squad have beaten Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach on home soil this season in the club's first top-flight campaign. However, the absence of supporters as the league returned to action following the COVID-19 shutdown removed an important advantage for the newly-promoted side.
Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick after 40 minutes to give the Bavarians the lead and Benjamin Pavard ended the match as a contest with 12 minutes to go from a corner kick.
1. FC Union Berlin: Gikiewicz; Hübner, Subotic, Schlotterbeck; Trimmel, Lenz, Andrich (Gentner 70), Prömel (Kroos 85); Ingvartsen (Mees 81), Bülter (Ryerson 85), Ujah (Andersson 71)
Bayern Munich: Neuer; Kimmich, Alaba, Boateng; Pavard, Davies, Thiago, Goretzka (Coman 71); Müller (Cuisance 90), Gnabry (Perisic 85), Lewandowski
After a few days of personal leave following the passing of his father-in-law, coach Urs Fischer was unable to be present at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei. The main responsibilities were assumed by assistant Markus Hoffmann who holds the requisite licence for the Bundesliga. He has been assisted in training this week by Sebastian Bönig. Marvin Friedrich missed out due to suspension and he was replaced by Florian Hübner in central defence. Grischa Prömel, who signed a new contract this week, was given the nod, while Anthony Ujah took Sebastian Andersson's starting place in attack.
Union's start to the game was expected – far from perfect given the nine-week break due to the outbreak of COVID-19 but excellent organisation off-the-ball and 100% commitment. After five minutes, Prömel powered diagonally from the sideline into the Bayern box, cutting back for Marius Bülter but the shot was straight at the towering frame of Manuel Neuer. Shortly after, Hübner bypassed midfield with a tidy ball into Ujah, the Nigerian striker twisting clear but shooting off target. Given the standard of opposition, Union's caution without the ball was understandable. Even the slightest wrong decision or drop in concentration could give Bayern an opportunity. On 17 minutes, Joshua Kimmich's corner was bundled in by Thomas Müller after Serge Gnabry's knock down. However, referee Bastian Dankert consulted by with the video officials in Cologne and Union's defensive record was kept intact. Union took note of the wake-up call and faired much better beyond the half-hour point. But Bayern's opener saw the Köpenick club take their foot of the gas with Neven Subotic bringing down Leon Goretzka inside the box. Lewandowski scored his 25th goal in 24 Bundesliga matches from 12 yards to give the league leaders an advantage going into the interval.
Union returned with the same XI from the first half, but it took a while for the Köpenick side to get going. Goretzka came within inches of the second goal on 49 minutes before Gikiewicz kept out Gnabry from close range. Prömel's shot on 55 minutes was a rare moment of relief for Union as the reigning champions found the touch and slickness which sees them at the summit of the league. Hoffmann turned to his substitutes in the main stand on 70 minutes with Andersson getting his chance to shine and Christian Gentner taking Robert Andrich's place in the middle of the park. Both players have been pivotal to Union's success this season, but training time has been limited during the shutdown. Gentner looked to make something happen straight away, but he couldn't divert one of his two efforts on goal towards Neuer's target. Though Bayern enjoyed their dominance, Gikiewicz was kept relatively untested from quality scoring situations. A frustrating point for Union will be a second 'goal' lost to a set-piece situation: Kimmich's delivery was powered in by Pavard with about 10 minutes to play. Joshua Mees, Julian Ryerson and Felix Kroos rounded off Union's five substitute options after the rule change by the German FA during the break. Kroos' shot forced Neuer into a late save, but Hansi Flick's men ran out comfortable winners in their first visit to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei in the Bundesliga.
This week's turnaround is short and snappy with attention turning quickly to Friday's 19:30 clash with Hertha Berlin at the Olympic Stadium to open the 27th Bundesliga matchday.