A 1-1 draw at home to Slavia Prague was not enough for 1. FC Union Berlin to continue the European journey beyond Christmas.
Max Kruse's second-half equaliser set up a dramatic climax at the Olympic Stadium as the Köpenick club looked for the decisive winner to go through to the knockout play-off round of the UEFA Europa Conference League.
But Slavia Prague prevailed with the point having gone ahead through Ivan Schranz's opener in the 50th minute.
1. FC Union Berlin: Rönnow; Trimmel (Ryerson 70), Gießelmann, Baumgartl (Öztunali 83), Knoche, Friedrich; Prömel, Khedira (Haraguchi 70), Kruse; Becker (Voglsammer 74), Awoniyi (Behrens 70)
Slavia Prague: Mandous; Dorley, Kacharaba, Ousou, Holes, Bah (Ekpal 74); Samek (Traore 78), Masopust, Lingr (Stanciu 74); Schranz, Olayinka
Urs Fischer made two changes to the final Group E match with Christopher Trimmel replacing the Hero of Haifa Julian Ryerson, while Frederik Rönnow was handed the gloves in place of Andreas Luthe. The victory in Israel on Matchday 5 set up a winner-takes-it-all clash against the Czech champions for a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League knockout play-off round. As the coronavirus pandemic continues in Germany, a nationwide agreement on outdoor events saw the upper capacity limit reduced to just 5,000 in time for tonight’s clash. Referee Rade Obrenovic turned away an early penalty shout for the visitors despite 1. FC Union Berlin holding their own early on. Despite a general dominance, the final pass or decision wasn’t there. Becker burst clear on 11 minutes of the Slavia midfield but his pass was too heavy for Awoniyi who attempted to run in behind. Four minutes later, Awoniyi sprung the trap but delayed the pass to either Becker or Kruse either side and the attack was snuffed out. The best opportunity was in the away of a similar break with Kruse taking his time to get the shot on target. The wicked deflection from Slavia defender Alham Ousou wrong-footed the goalkeeper Ales Mandous and went over the top. As the first half wore on, the Czech champions grew into the contest. Ondrej Lingr shot wide from range as he found a pocket of space in midfield. On 33 minutes, Union failed to clear their lines as Oscar Dorley created from the left-hand side. The Liberian passed to Tomas Holes who watched as his 20-yard effort clipped the crossbar on its way past Frederik Rönnow. The last quarter of an hour in the half was a more equal contest but both sides failed to take control on the slippy surface at the Olympic Stadium.
The onus was on Urs Fischer’s side to push for the goal at the Olympic Stadium and they came close on 47 minutes when Baumgartl was denied by Mandous and Awoniyi’s follow up was blocked. Slavia Prague took advantage of the next attack on their side and broke the deadlock on 50 minutes. Ivan Schranz carried the ball into the final third and powered a shot past Rönnow. Peter Olayinka hit the post four minutes later with a chance that would have ended the contest. The Köpenick club fought back into the game, digging into the energy reserves despite a congested schedule. Marvin Friedrich saw a shot deflected wide on 62 minutes and two minutes later, the ball was in the net. A corner kick from the captain wasn’t cleared by the visitors and Kruse bundled in the rebound to level the match. With victory required, Fischer turned to his bench with three changes on 70 minutes. Genki Haraguchi, Kevin Behrens and Julian Ryerson were introduced for fresh legs while Andreas Voglsammer soon followed. The Czech side showed their European experience at times to keep Union at bay. With Schranz and Olayinka up front, Slavia were able to use the space Union left as the home side pushed for the win. Olayinka may have put the game to bed in the final minutes but Rönnow and Robin Knoche defended strongly. Urs Fischer’s team asked the questions in stoppage time but Slavia were determined and kept hold of the vital point until the final whistle of the referee.