Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs 1. FC Union Berlin
Bundesliga, 33. Matchday
Leverkusen vs 1. FC Union
Bundesliga, 33. Matchday
Pohjanpalo goal snatches 1-1 draw
Joel Pohjanpalo levelled against his parent club to give 1. FC Union Berlin a fighting chance of qualifying for Europe next season.
The Finland international scored after 72 minutes to bring Urs Fischer's team back on level terms at Bayer Leverkusen, who took the lead through Florian Wirtz.
A wide open final 10 minutes could have seen the game go either way, but the vital point leaves the Köpenick club in with a chance of seventh place on the final day.
Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky; Tah, Dragovic, Tapsoba; Aranguiz, Demirbay; Diaby, Wirtz (Diaby 90), Amiri (Bellarabi 67), Wendell; Schick (Gray 84)
1. FC Union Berlin: Luthe; Trimmel (Becker 66), Schlotterbeck, Knoche, Friedrich, Lenz (Bülter 66); Andrich, Gentner (Griesbeck 84); Ingvartsen (Awoniyi 55), Kruse, Musa (Pohjanpalo 55)
Urs Fischer made two changes to his side from the disappointing 0-3 defeat at Wolfsburg - Robert Andrich and Max Kruse came in for Joel Pohjanpalo and Sebastian Griesbeck. Hannes Wolf has won all of his home games as Bayer Leverkusen head coach and it looked like his run would continue when Patrick Schick put the ball in the net after seven minutes. Fortunately for the Köpenick club, referee Patrick Ittrich and his team adjudged the striker to have handled the ball. Despite Leverkusen's array of talent in the forward positions, Union held their own and impressed over the first 20 minutes. Andrich's return in midfield added a spring to the step of Fischer's side as he broke up a number of passing moves from the home side. Both Christopher Lenz and Marcus Ingvartsen found themselves in shooting positions inside the first 10 minutes but couldn't test Lukas Hradecky. Five minutes later, Andrich won the ball back and prompted a counter-attack by the visiting team. Andrich played in Kruse who went on to have a shot on target but the referee waived away a foul on the midfielder at the edge of the box. The returning Kruse scored on 20 minutes but Andrich was offside after running in behind the Leverkusen defence. Similar to the second half in Wolfsburg, Union were punished for missed chances and Leverkusen opened the scoring after 27 minutes. The home side won the break of the ball in the Union box and Florian Wirtz tapped home at the back-post. The opener knocked the air out of the Berlin side for a period, but there was a recovery as Rob Andrich fired over the crossbar with nine minutes left to play in the first half.
The heavens opened after half-time and stretched the game in the opening phase. Leverkusen's speed and quality on the break will have licked their lips at the opportunity to attack Union with the help of a slicker, faster pitch. However, Andreas Luthe and his defence held firm to keep the scoreline deficit at one. Fischer wanted more in attack and made a double substitution on 55 minutes with Petar Musa and Ingvartsen going off for Pohjanpalo and Taiwo Awoniyi. Ittrich handed out a yellow card as the change took place - Andrich's caution means he will miss the final game of the season against Leipzig. Sheraldo Becker joined Awoniyi in making his return from injury and Marius Bülter added a different kind of attacking threat on the left wing. On 74 minutes, Union finally found the breakthrough. Becker dropped in a dangerous cross from the right, but Pohjanpalo's header was parried clear by his compatriot Hradecky. The Finnish striker was in the right position to receive the rebound and he buried home to give Union a lifeline. The momentum switched in Union's direction and Awoniyi was unable to take one of his chances, set up by Kruse on 77 minutes. From the resulting corner kick, the Nigerian headed wide from a corner kick. While news of resutls going Union's way filtered through, there was a chaotic nature to the final few minutes with opportunities in both penalty boxes to take all three points. Robin Knoche and Nico Schlotterbeck both made game-deciding interventions in one-on-one situation to preserve the dream of European qualification next season.
Union face six-pointer in Leverkusen
The second-last weekend of the Bundesliga campaign is upon us and 1. FC Union Berlin will conclude the away programme for 2020/21 at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday at 15:30.
Urs Fischer's side left Wolfsburg nursing the 0-3 defeat last Saturday with Josip Brekalo's hat-trick consolidating the Wolves' top-four position in the league. The Croatian winger opened the scoring with an excellent strike from range, while Andreas Luthe pulled off a string of top saves to keep Union in the game. Wolfsburg's tight defensive unit and organisation has been key to their great campaign — and this was evident throughout last week's match. At the start of the second half, Union put up a fight and may have felt unfortunate to hit an equaliser. Marcus Ingvartsen wasn't able to shake off a knock and was replaced by Keita Endo at the break. Petar Musa threatened the home defence but Wolfsburg's pair of John Anthony Brooks and Maxence Lacroix did enough to hold firm. As Musa missed a chance to score after 61 minutes, Brekalo fired a second in at the other end with the help of a deflection. With Union pushing forward and committing everything to attack, Wolfsburg put the game beyond doubt late on as Brekalo smashed in from close range.
Hannes Wolf is six games into his stint at the BayArena and the 40-year-old coach has helped stabilise Leverkusen after a rough spell under Peter Bosz. The 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich to one side, Leverkusen have picked up maximum points at home, whilst drawing at Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim. The Werkself are give points better off than Union and have held firm in sixth place, which would guarantee Leverkusen's passage to European football.
"Leverkusen have only lost one of their last five - against Bayern. They will do everything they can to consolidate their current position," said Fischer.
Urs Fischer confirmed at the pre-match press conference that he will need to do without Anthony Ujah, Leon Dajaku, Grischa Prömel, Cedric Teuchert, Jakob Busk and Florian Hübner. Taiwo Awoniyi and Sheraldo Becker have trained and are options for the squad. Robert Andrich has come through full training without any issues.
Saturday's game at the BayArena in Leverkusen will be played behind closed doors.