Union Berlin suffered defeat for the first time this season, losing 3-2 to Fortuna Düsseldorf who prevailed in stoppage time at the ESPRIT Arena.
It looked as though a superb second-half performance from Jens Keller’s side would be rewarded, but Florian Neuhaus’ strike made sure the points remained in Düsseldorf.
The toughest opponent so far, Fortuna Düsseldorf showed why they have promotion ambitions for this term. The home side placed Jakob Busk’s goal under constant assault in the early exchanges with Rouwen Hennings and Belgian attacker Benito Raman causing a particular threat. The opener came on 18 minutes with Marcel Sobottka rifling home from the edge of the penalty box.
Keller’s team remained second best in challenges, whilst struggling to contain the speed and mobility of Raman. Busk and his back-four defended with a real determination to keep Union’s head above water ahead of the interval.
The Union coach may have had a word-or-two to say at the break, and it seemed to have the desired effect. Damir Kreilach’s pressing and passing helped the Köpenick club pin down the team from Nordrhein-Westfalen, with only one team likely to score as the clock approached the hour mark.
On 69 minutes, fan favourite Kreilach powered above his marker inside the penalty box and headed in Christopher Trimmel’s corner kick. After signing from Schalke this week, Japanese right-back Atsuto Uchida made his debut in Union colours, coming off the bench with a quarter of an hour left.
A player with Bundesliga, Champions League and international quality, Uchida affected the game, shuttling down the right wing before Düsseldorf’s Kaan Ayhan turned the ball into his own net. Following a highly demanding first half in the ESPRIT Arena, Union Berlin were in the driving seat with the best part of 10 minutes remaining.
Instead, euphoria turned into frustration when a long throw landed at the feet of Takashi Usami, the former Bayern and Augsburg player, who shot home from distance. The hosts left the stadium happier following midfield strategist Neuhaus’ 92nd-minute winner for Friedhelm Funkel’s side.
“Congratulations to Funkel and his team, but we are hurt by the defeat,” Keller explained post match. “We weren’t in the game for the first half and didn’t do enough. We did not dominate the duels. We actually should have taken the lead with Polter, but instead found ourselves 0-1 down. We came out of the changing room after the break and exerted a lot of pressure, with the game under control. We then make too many individual mistakes, so it is very annoying that we are not taking anything today. A point would have been deserved based on the second half, but we're going home empty-handed.”
There is little time to ponder what may have been, however, with Torsten Lieberknecht’s Eintracht Braunschweig coming to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Friday (18:30).