1.FC Union won their first friendly of the 2023/24 season 2-0 with early goals coming from Jordan Siebatcheu and Janik Haberer on a glorious evening in Luckenwalde
FSV 63 Luckenwalde: Tittel (46. Sommer) – Maric (46. Koch), Albrecht (60. Mazzo Nogueira), Jannene (46. Koplin), Göth (46. Nwatu) – Flath (60. Ullmann), Butendeich (60. Wallmann), Geisler, Vierling (46. Hefele) – Winter (46. Dahlke), Plumpe (46. Kaizer)
1. FC Union Berlin: Busk (46. Stein) – Trimmel (46. Skarke), Ogbemudia (41. Jaeckel), Knoche (46. Doekhi), Leite (46. Heintz), Dehl (46. Roussillion) – Kemlein (46. Thorsby), Kral (46. Khedira), Haberer (46. Pantovic) – Siebatcheu (46. Behrens), Kaufmann (46. Jahaj)
Goals: 0:1 Siebatcheu (3.), 0:2 Haberer (6.),
Exactly five years and one week ago, (1,833 days, if you must know) in Urs Fischer’s second ever game as the head coach of 1. FC Union Berlin, he travelled with his players the short hop to play a pre-season friendly against FSV Fürstenwalde. Union won 3-1, and the sainted but flighty Eroll Zejnullahu scored the opener.
But few there at the time knew how monumental that season would turn out to be. How it would end with the best part of 20,000 people dancing on the turf of the Alte Försterei, and promotion to the Bundesliga secured.
The only man that took to the pitch that day, who would so again today at FSV Luckenwalde, 70-odd kilometres away from Fürstenwalde, was the skipper, Christopher Trimmel.
How far he, and Union, have come. For today at the Werner-Seelenbinder-Stadion Fischer started the long preparations for a season that will include not only a fifth Bundesliga campaign but also...
Well, you know the rest.
Jordan scores early; Haberer doubles
The team Fischer sent out for the first half was dotted with thoughts of the new, splashed with the glimmer of the tried and trusted. Jakob Busk, Union’s second longest serving player, started in goal. The 16 year old Oluwaseun Ogbemudia – recently arrived from St. Pauli - started for the first time in a traditional back three, to the right of Robin Knoche and Diogo Leite, with Laurenz Dehl, fresh from his loan to Viktoria, on the left and Trimmel on the right. Alex Kral got his debut as the holding midfielder, slotting in behind Janik Haberer and the young Aljoscha Kemlein who had already played in most of the winter friendlies. And ahead of them were Jordan Siebatcheu next to another debutant, Mikkel Kaufmann.
Union started quickly, Jordan putting a shot wide after a sharp move through Kaufmann on the right. And it was that pairing who opened the scoring, Jordan finishing past Kevin Tittel with his left, following a headed knockdown from Kaufmann who had come back inside to the D on the edge of the box after only three minutes.
Kral was involved everywhere, imposing himself on the hosts. He caught Luckenwalde keeper, Tittel, up top, and Phil Butendeich in the centre circle; and then again chasing the FSV striker back as the half neared its end with ominous precision. And only three minutes after the opener it was his charge, and Kemlein’s clever ball, that gave Haberer the space to make it two.
Ogbemudia looked born to the manor, following a burst through the middle after 10 minutes, he showed no nerves in pointing to Knoche the space that needed to be covered behind him. He had a knack for being in the right place, as when he headed the FSV right winger Oliver Maric’s cross away with ease. During a drinks break, Fischer took him aside, a hand on his arm, his fingers a whirl of motion, pointing at the box as he said “from there, you go here, and from here, you go there.” Tellingly, the young centre-back also asked questions of the gaffer.
Fischer patted him on the back as the players prepared to re-start. He would have a shot saved smartly at the near post from outside the box only a few minutes later. A flashed at bicycle kick following a corner after half an hour was less precise.
He went down awkwardly as the half neared its end and was led down the touchline disconsolately. He said he wanted to go on, but it wasn’t worth the risk. Fischer shook his hand, he beamed his best smile and told him he’d done well, and he was off.
We will see him again.
FSV wouldn’t be rolled over though. Trimmel cleared, chasing back, Kral was bustled off the ball by Phil Butendeich. Oliver Maric was a whir of bustling motion on the right hand side, always keen to have the ball, looking for spaces to find in the box. After Union’s early lead, they deserved great credit for the fight they showed.
Union remain dominant, but goalless
FSV made eight changes at the break, Fischer made 11, now with Yannick Stein between the posts. Dominique Heintz, back from Bochum, joined Danilho Doekhi and Paul Jaeckel at the back, with Jerome Rousillon and Tim Skarke (recently on loan at Schalke 04) scampering up and down the flanks. Rani Khedira, took back his domain around the centre-circle with Morten Thorsby and Milos Pantovic, now behind Kevin Behrens and another debutant, the 17 year old Albion Jahaj who, just like Zejnullahu - who scored all those years ago in Fürstenwalde - is a Berliner with Kosovan roots.
Though he didn’t score, Jahaj’s debut was as impressive as Ogbemudia’s was.
FSV’s chances were largely from outside the box, the first falling to Daniel Hefele, shooting flat, first time at Stein from outside the box a minute into the half. Clemens Koplin hit one at Stein with his right, Leon Hellwig, another with 20 minutes to play.
But Jahaj looked keen to make things happen, his run out to the right early on leading a foul on Tim Skarke. He then brought down Skarke’s ball from the right on his chest with an insouciance belying a man on his debut. He nutmegged Luckenwalde centre-half Edgar Kaizer as he broke down the inside right channel. He bent a shot with his left from an angle on the right hand side that dropped just over the bar as the game was almost done.
Though they created few serious openings, Union had complete control of the game; more and more so as the half wore on.
Skarke and Thorsby combined on the right throughout the half, the latter flicking a header from the former’s free kick just wide after 77 minutes; Khedira, meanwhile, made the whole thing tick over in the way the Unioner - hundreds of them, young and old, lolling in the glorious late sunshine, packing the thin terraces five steps high on the touchline, seven or eight behind the goals - have become used to. He patrolled the middle, he laid the ball off, he made it all look so simple. Doekhi, too, looking twice the height of every opponent he faced. Heintz was eager to push up, and Pantovic equally so to cover any gaps in midfield.
Behrens battled up top, sweating, striving as ever, he slid in toe to toe with the FSV keeper, Arne Sommer with 20 minutes to play.
The score remained 2-0 as the referee put the game to bed - the goal difference the same as it had been when Fischer took his team out in that game against Fürstenwalde five long years ago. The first friendly of the year had been full of joy, but the main points of interest were provided by two teenagers on debut.
Now the expectations are different, of course. But the hopes...
Well, you know the rest.