Despite a gallant second half effort, Union Berlin and Jens Keller suffered their first league defeat in six games after going down 4-3 at Heidenheim.
The Köpenick club had to respond after going 2-0 down at the hour mark, but couldn’t edge the game in their favour in a topsy-turvy encounter.
For such a high-scoring match, it was a surprise that the 12,000 fans in the Voith-Arena had to wait until almost half time for the opening goal. Before that, the game was largely even with Jakob Busk defending his goal with great authority and the trio of Felix Kroos, Grischa Prömel and Damir Kreilach battling well in midfield.
But Busk was beaten, a minute before the break, when Arne Feick popped up from the left-hand side and finished off a fine cross from Marc Schnatterer.
Even though the coach introduced Stephan Fürstner into the middle of the pitch, it didn’t change how dangerous Heidenheim were on the break. The left-hand side was the focus again for Heidenheim, with John Verhoek heading on to the woodwork before reacting quickest to turn in the rebound after 60 minutes.
Union’s character came to the fore in the aftermath with Sebastian Polter being brought down for a penalty kick, then stepping up to score himself, four minutes later. Just as a fightback seemed possible, Schnatterer lashed a 35-yard free kick into the bottom corner, past the outstretched arm of Busk.
Not much longer than five minutes later, Union hit back again. Akaki Gogia’s pass cut open the Heidenheim defence and Steven Skrzybski finished off from a tight angle.
If there were signs of life in Keller’s side, conceding again (4-2) made it all the more frustrating. Dutch striker Verhoek was once again unmarked inside the box to open a two-goal advantage for the home side, although that was cut out less than 60 seconds later by Skrzybski’s second of the day.
Keller’s side pushed on towards the end for the equaliser, but aside from a penalty shout against Polter, there was nothing to faze Frank Schmidt’s team. “We just made too many mistakes today; we made too many against and with the build-up play,” analysed Keller in the post-match media conference. “My team still showed huge morale. It was our plan to play this game, but we didn’t because of so many errors. We are annoyed that we couldn’t bring our best performance.”
Union will be keen to return to winning form when Darmstadt are the visitors to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Saturday.