Despite a determined display from a much-changed Union Berlin, the 2.Bundesliga club went down 4-1 to Bayer Leverkusen in the second round of the DFB Pokal. Dennis Daube levelled the scores after half-time, but the home side’s Champions League quality stood out with two late goals to kill the game.
Jens Keller turned to his rotation policy as promised with Christopher Trimmel and Simon Hedlund the only two remaining from Saturday’s 3-1 win over Greuther Fürth.
After kick off was delayed by five minutes to ease the traffic problems around the stadium, Union started positively in search of an early breakthrough. Union’s central three closed off spaces in front of the back four and made life uncomfortable for Leverkusen in the build-up phase.
At the other end, change keeper Daniel Mesenhöler was on form to keep out an excellent shot from Admir Mehmedi in the 22nd minute. But the former 1.FC Köln goalkeeper could do nothing to stop Julian Brandt from pinging a superb strike into the net after 36 minutes. Union remained under pressure until the break, but kept the game alive.
Backed by around 3,500 away fans, Union’s patience and hard work was rewarded almost immediately after the restart. Damir Kreilach ambitiously clipped the ball in behind the Leverkusen defence and Daube finished off. The visitors were cheered on to get the second, but were left a little open at the back as a result with Lucas Alario scoring after 58 minutes.
Kreilach almost set up a thrilling final half hour when his free kick crashed against Bernd Leno’s crossbar in front of the Union supporters. Substitutes Marcel Hartel and Sebastian Polter threatened Leno’s goal more, but Leverkusen went on to grab a third from the penalty spot in the closing stages. Charles Aranguiz netted a fourth in the 91st minute, while Stephan Fürstner was shown his second yellow card to leave Union down to 10.
“Congratulations to Bayer Leverkusen on reaching the next round. We would have liked to have earned this ourselves, and due to the second half, it might not have been so undeserved. We weren’t so good at the beginning, but dominated in the second half. The referee had a unique opinion on the penalty kick, but after 3-1, it was over. Nevertheless, I’m very satisfied with the performance," said Keller at the post-game press conference.
After Union return to Berlin on Wednesday, it is back west at the weekend to take on MSV Duisburg (13:30 kick off) at the Schauinsland-Reisen Arena.