Union Berlin earned a draw on the road for the second successive away match in 2018, leaving the Bielefelder Alm with a point following a 1-1 draw against Arminia Bielefeld.
Steven Skrzybski’s eighth goal of the campaign was cancelled out in the second half by an impressive finish from Konstantin Kerschbaumer.
The third outing of 2018 in a challenging period, Union were out to end a disappointing run of results, which have seen the Köpenick club drop to 10th place. Head coach Andre Hofschneider juggled a bunch of personnel issues with Toni Leistner and Philipp Hosiner suspended following their red cards against 1.FC Nürnberg last Friday.
The boss turned to Michael Parensen and Marvin Friedrich, with the system shifting to a three-man defensive unit, tested in training, including the internal bounce game against the U19s last week. Friedrich, one of Union’s additions in January, warned about the physicality and robustness of Bielefeld, who defeated VfL Bochum in the previous matchday.
His caution was justified with Jeff Sabeine’s side coming out all guns blazing. Andreas Voglsammer was particularly dangerous in behind the Union backline, and was denied by a superb stop on 12 minutes from Daniel Mesenhöler, who continued between the sticks in place of Jakub Busk.
Four minutes later, Union took advantage of a huge slice of luck, a mishap in the Bielefeld backline allowing Skrzybski to run through. The 24-year-old held his nerve to impudently lob Stefan Ortega from distance in front of the home supporters. Bielefeld put together a strong end to the half and peppered the Union box, but the Berliners held firm to the lead at the interval.
However, the second half was more in the hands of Bielefeld. Union’s defence was tested to the maximum and deputy Parensen stepped up to the plate and delivered a controlled and classy performance. There was a strong penalty claim against him for handball, but referee Tobias Reichel waved away claims from the home side.
The strike from Kerschbaumer, on loan from Brentford, on 53 minutes was out of the ordinary. The Bielefeld forward grabbed the loose ball and then launched a dipping volley over the reach of Mesenhöler. Union had opportunities to respond, but passed up a key chance when Skrzybski’s run and finish was remarkably kept out by Ortega.
With the game going beyond three minutes of stoppage time, there would be drama at the Bielefelder Alm. Ortega cleared a set-piece out of the home side’s box, but Skrzybski returned the ball with a sensational strike to find the back of the net. The match official, Reichel, controversially blew his whistle as the Union forward was striking the ball towards the net.
"We saw a game today where both teams gave it their all. Bielefeld are known for being strong in duels and running lots, and they showed that today, too. We had good passages of play, but we had problems when we didn’t connect the passes well. We took the lead in the first half, but we were not consistent enough in the end,” Hofschneider said at the post-match press conference, which is available to watch on the club’s AFTV channel.
Union were left visibly frustrated by the decision to rule out Skrzybski’s late strike, but Hofschneider added, the debate is largely down to the referee’s own mistake. “In the final phase, the referee has created an unnecessary situation for himself. Either he has to whistle after three minutes of added time, or let the situation run to the end. This discussion is his own fault.”
The team returns to training on Tuesday, when the attention turns to Saturday’s crunch encounter with Fortuna Düsseldorf at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.