Grischa Prömel scored the first double of his career to claim a 2-2 draw at Bayer Leverkusen.
The midfielder led from the front as 1. FC Union Berlin turned the game around after half-time following Patrick Schick's goal for the home side. Prömel struck on the stroke of the interval before finishing from close range on 56 minutes to put Union ahead. But Leverkusen equalised with six minutes to go through defender Jonathan Tah as the teams shared the spoils.
Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky; Frimpong (Alario 83), Tah, Hincapie, Bakker; Andrich, Demirbay (Bellarabi 78); Paulinho (Adil 76), Wirtz, Diaby; Schick
1. FC Union Berlin: Luthe; Trimmel (Ryerson 77), Gießelmann (Oczipka 26), Friedrich, Knoche, Jaeckel; Prömel (Möhwald 71), Khedira, Haraguchi (Öztunali 45); Kruse, Behrens (Voglsammer 45)
Christmas and New Year celebrations were put to one side as 1. FC Union Berlin's adventure in the Bundesliga continued into 2022. With the increasing statistics for coronavirus infections, the match in Leverkusen was held unfortunately behind closed doors. Urs Fischer had to prepare without strike pair Taiwo Awoniyi and Sheraldo Becker – the Nigerian is on international duty, while Becker tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation. Max Kruse moved back into a more advanced position with Kevin Behrens getting the nod to start the year as the main centre-forward in the Union ranks. Despite going three games without a win before the end of 2021, Bayer Leverkusen are still a side chasing qualification for next season's Champions League. Gerardo Seaone's team are attack-minded and have quality in all positions, including former Union midfielder Robert Andrich who faced his old side for the first time. Marvin Friedrich had to step in after five minutes to prevent Florian Wirtz from a clear sight at Andreas Luthe's goal as the home side dominated early. Jonathan Tah failed to score from a corner while Luthe's body took the hit from Schick's header in the 14th minute. Union had to patch things up for a few minutes when Niko Gießelmann took a knock after 22 minutes. Urs Fischer took the decision to replace the left-back four minutes later with Bastian Oczipka stepping into the role he covered well at Bochum in December. Leverkusen's threats came from all angles with Paulinho dangerous on the left and both Wirtz and Moussa Diaby causing issues from their positions off the front. In the end, it was a route one ball that led to Leverkusen's opener as Schick fired in the rebound on 37 minutes. The Czech striker pounced after Luthe had made an important stop from Diaby. There wasn't a lot to suggest the Köpenick club could fight back on the balance of the first-half but the away side did take their opportunity on the stoke of the break. Tah cleared the corner kick as far as Christopher Trimmel – making his 250th appearance for Union – who tested Lukas Hradecky with a measured left-foot volley. Kevin Behrens attacked the rebound but the Finnish goalkeeper saved again. The third attempt was put into the net by Grischa Prömel to give Union a lifeline in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Andreas Voglsammer and Levin Öztunali were given the nod at half-time in place of Kevin Behrens and Genki Haraguchi. Union looked more capable of turning defence-to-attack in the second half and for long periods were the stronger side. Max Kruse's progress was halted by Jeremiah Frimpong who blocked his shot on 55 minutes. Trimmel crossed for Kruse a minute later but Hradecky held firm. The breakthrough arrived from a poorly-cleared set-piece situation as Kruse returned the ball back into the six-yard-box and Prömel tapped home his second of the game to put Union ahead. Shots from Oztunali and Oczipka put the hosts on the back foot during a strong period for the Köpenick club. However, Seoane's Leverkusen were never out of the picture and their offensive quality shone through for the next chunk of the game. Paulinho found Schick who was denied by the Union goalkeeper. Leverkusen's Brazilian number 7 was the quietest of the front four up until this point but he could have proved to be the key man for the home side. On 68 minutes, Kerem Demirbay's corner kick was met by Paulinho at the front post but Luthe's reflexes tipped the ball away from danger. Prömel made way for Kevin Möhwald with 20 minutes to go before Union composed themselves in an intensive period. Andreas Voglsammer created the chance to free Union from the pressure but couldn't finish. Max Kruse almost stole the show with a great solo-goal but his shot from range hit the woodwork. Union freshened up the wide positions with Julian Ryerson taking the place of captain Trimmel. But Leverkusen found a gear in the last 10 minutes and dug out an equalising goal. Karim Bellarabi put the ball in the dangerzone and Tah headed over Luthe to level the scores. Credit has to go to the Union team who opted to push for the winning goal instead of seeing out the 90 minutes with a defensive approach. A handful of opportunities fell the way of Union in the final minutes but Finnish international Hradecky kept his side on terms. Andreas Voglsammer held his run to break the offside trap from the left but the goalkeeper saved on 89 minutes. In stoppage time, Kevin Möhwald stung the gloves of Hradecky with an ambitious scissor kick, while Bastian Oczipka watched agonisingly as his excellent strike hit the post – and would have almost certainly decided the game if the ball landed inside the aluminium.
With a point to bring back to Berlin, 1. FC Union Berlin will turn attention to the first home game of 2022 next Saturday when Hoffenheim are the visitors to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.