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RB Leipzig vs 1. FC Union Berlin

Bundesliga, 20. Matchday

RB Leipzig vs 1. FC Union

Bundesliga, 20. Matchday

Sun., 04. February 2024, 17:30 Uhr
Leipzig Stadium
2 : 0
SR: Marco Fritz

Union Lose in Leipzig

Match report

Union lost 2-0 on Sunday evening in Leipzig, despite debutant Alexander Schwolow’s heroics. The goals from Ikoma-Lois Openda and Benjamin Šeško adding to the further pain of captain Christopher Trimmel’s second half red card.

RasenBallsport Leipzig: Gulácsi – Henrichs, Klostermann, Orban (70. Lukeba), Raum (83. Bitshiabu) – Xavi, Schlager, Kampl (83. Seiwald), Olmo (77. Elmas) – Openda (77. Poulsen), Šeško 

1. FC Union Berlin: Schwolow – Trimmel, Knoche, Vogt, Doekhi, Gosens – Haberer (58. Volland), Tousart (58. Khedira), Schäfer (58. Laidouni) – Vertessen (75. Aaronson), Hollerbach (75. Bedia) 

Attendance: 44.032 

Goals:  1-0 Openda (11.), Šeško 2-0 (48.) 

The starting XI

It was a big day for Alexander Schwolow, not only making his first-team debut for Union, but with it his 200th Bundesliga match. His appearance – coming in for the sick Frederik Rönnow – wasn’t the only change, for he was behind a back three not just of Robin Knoche and Kevin Vogt, but also Danilho Doekhi, himself making his first start for Union since he played the full 90 minutes against VfB Stuttgart back in October.

Nenad Bjelica – still absent due to serving the second of his three match touchline ban – had opted again for Christopher Trimmel and Robin Gosens as full backs, flanking a midfield three of Lucas Tousart, Janik Haberer and Andras Schäfer.

Up front he decided that pace was the thing, opting foe benedict Hollerbach and the new guy, freshly signed from PSV Eindhoven, Yorbe Vertessen.

Schwolow shines, but Openda breaks through

Schwolow had his first touch of many in the latest part of this next chapter of his long Bundesliga career early on, punching away from David Raum’s cross from the left. He would make several superb interventions, and this was just the beginning, but Union looked sharp and organised at the back initially, as when Tousart robbed Benjamin Henrichs, or Doekhi heading an earlier ball from Raum away with the glacial ease he had made such a trademark of before his long layoff. Knoche, a battling presence all chastening afternoon long, stepped in front of Šeško, his timing immaculate.

Union seemed content to let the hosts have the ball, spreading that back three as wide as possible without it, but the host's first chance came when Schäfer was adjudged to have brought down Dani Olmo on the edge of the box, out right. Raum stepped up but could only hit it into Union’s wall, Vogt, without pause for thought, taking the ball full in the face. It was hit with such pace it floored the big centre-back for a moment.

In one of Union's first forays forwards, Tousart took a couple of steps through midfield and slotted Vertessen in for his first run on the ball, but Peter Gulácsi was out of his box smartly. He took the ball outside the box by a couple of clear inches but let it slip under his body, turning to hide it before the linesman could see. Union could feel more than aggrieved at the blind eye turned.

But they had cause for hope, too. It was the first signs of what the Belgian could offer, and of the havoc the pace of he and Hollerbach could cause on the break. After 20 minutes Hollerbach hit a cross shot that had to be turned over the bar at the last by Gulácsi, caught in a moment of sudden panic.

It was a small sign of what Union’s assistant coach, Marie-Louise Eta had said Union would need to do. “We had planned to play boldly forward from our possession and we showed that over the course of the game.”

All that would mean little, however, after 11 minutes as a Leipzig set-piece pinballed around in the box, Henrichs’ shot ultimately being blocked unwittingly by Vogt. The ball dropped to Ikoma-Lois Openda outside of the right-hand post where he finished superbly first time, drilling the ball in at the near post from a tight angle, high and with power.

Leipzig took the game on after that, they were now dominant, pushing and pulling Union about, the guests chasing shadows.

But time and again Schwolow was there to thwart them. He made a fine stop to his right from Openda after 18 minutes, after another Leipzig attack orchestrated by Olmo’s neat through ball, as he’d make another, if more routine one from Openda before the half was up, and an even better one, down to his right as Benjamin Sesko’s downward header zipped back up off the pitch and seemed to have him beaten. His outstretched arm seemed to come from nowhere.

Gosens did well later to athletically head a clearance away and behind him before a deep cross dropped to the feet of Henrichs. But it was at the other end that he was starting to have some more fun, he whipped in a ball from the left that Vertessen flicked goalwards. Vertessen was showing his pace too. When caught at full pelt by Xaver Schlager he slid for another five metres on the green turf, leaving a tyre track in his wake that would be visible from the highest stands well into the second half.

Union were getting more into the game as the half wore on. Hollerbach outpaced and outmuscled Schlager down the left, hitting the byline; Tousart manoeuvred a little space in the middle to turn away from Kampl, while at the back Vogt did superbly to get in ahead of Šeško again to clear away and over the bar. The big Slovenian would have another that he headed over before the whistle blew. He wouldn’t miss his next chance.

Leipzig score an early second. Trimmel sees red.

Tousart got an immediate yellow as soon as the second half kicked off, leaving a free kick for Leipzig 25 yards out, to Leipzig’s left. Raum bent it in with his right where Sesko sneaked into the six-yard box. Schwolow got a hand to it, but there was too much power on the header. Union were stunned.

Stemming the tide, Schwolow made another stunning stop from Dani Olmo soon after that after the Spaniard let fly from space just outside the box.

Olmo was causing havoc, his rabona cross seeing Šeško again head home, but this time it wouldn’t count, the striker having strayed an inch offside as the ball was played in.

Immediately Danijel Jumić made changes from the touchline, binging on Rani Khedira and Aissa Laïdouni for Schäfer and Haberer, adding a little bite and weight to a midfield now in danger of being overrun, as well as Kevin Volland for Tousart, desperate to turn the tide.

And his side continued to fight, Hollerbach being a case in point, it’s not his style to give up. He was tireless down the right, winning a corner, then it took both Lukas Klostermann and Willi Orban to stop Vertessen as he ran through on goal, clipping a ball just too far ahead of Gosens with 20 minutes to play.

But then came the hammer blow. Trimmel lunged in on Raum near the centre circle and the referee barely batted an eyelid before going into his pocket, coming out with a straight red, if it seemed harsh at the time. The captain trudged off the pitch, his exit prompting the arrival of Chris Bedia and Brenden Aaronson for the twin attack of Hollerbach and Vertessen, the green shoots they’d shown, sadly for nothing on a tough Saxon evening. It was ten minutes later than Kevin Volland’s red against the same opposition in their home tie earlier  this season. That one signalled Union’s capitulation, even if this wouldn’t. But it was hard to see how Union could come back from it nonetheless. Still, however, they fought on. Eta said as much later on, "We kept creating chances around the 60th minute, but unfortunately we didn't finish them off, which is something we need to work on."

Laïdouni was immediately, constantly involved, battling with Christoph Baumgartner and Šeško at the back, switching a long ball out towards Volland from the halfway line, closing gaps and haring into challenges. Doekhi, too, threw himself at a 50-50 ball with Unions old foe, Yussuf Poulsen, winning the header through force of will alone; as was Robin Knoche, somehow dragging himself back into a footrace against the superb Xavi Simons when he seemed to have the beating of him as he sped into the box.

Khedira, wearing Trimmel’s armband now, was up and down the pitch, leading by example, getting up straight away even after being blindsided by a cracking blow to the ribs from Šeško, his momentum taking him onto Union’s midfielder like that of the pacific ocean crashing onto the California coasts.

There was still time for one more Schwolow masterclass, tipping Simon’s shot onto the bar, having danced his way into the box and giving himself a cramp in the process. And as the rain still poured down the Unioner kept going, their call and response between the two halves of their swollen, indefatigable block a joy to behold and a lesson to all of the passion that these fans can bring to a game, whether winning or losing.

But after five minutes added on, the game was up for their men on the pitch, and their eyes turned immediately to a midweek appointment in Mainz. Schwolow even alluded to it after the game, his performance failing to mask his disappointment at the result. "We conceded too much overall. It's annoying that we conceded two goals from set pieces... Now the game on Wednesday will be all the more crucial for us."



Union Travel to Leipzig

Match preview

On Sunday, 4 February 2024, as part of the Bundesliga’s 20th matchday, 1. FC Union Berlin will face RasenBallsport Leipzig. Kick off at the former Zentralstadion is at 17:30.

The lie of the land

Union travel to Leipzig off the back of a home win when Benedict Hollerbach's decisive goal secured a 1-0 victory over SV Darmstadt last weekend, whereas RasenBallsport were beaten 5-2 at VfB Stuttgart last weekend.

The opponents

With 33 points from 19 games, the team from the Messestadt are currently fifth in the Bundesliga table. However, with a 19-point gap to league leaders Bayer Leverkusen and 17 to second-placed Bayern, Leipzig are locked in a duel for the UEFA Champions League places with Borussia Dortmund, Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt, who are two points behind the Saxons in sixth place. 

Leipzig are without a win in four Bundesliga games, their last three-pointer coming before Christmas when they beat TSG Hoffenheim 3-1 at home and have also failed to keep a clean sheet for ten games in a row.

The 2022 and 2023 DFB Pokal winners will not be able to defend their title again this year, as coach Marco Rose's team were beaten 1-0 by Wolfsburg. In the UEFA Champions League, Leipzig qualified for the round of 16 and will face Union's group opponents Real Madrid. 

Eljif Elmas, a new arrival from Naples, joined the club during the winter transfer window, while Emil Forsberg (New York RB) and Timo Werner (Tottenham Hotspur) left the club. It is their Summer arrivals who have made the biggest impact; Loïs Openda and Xavi Simons have been directly involved in 32 of their 42 goals scored. The latter is expected to return to the starting eleven on Sunday following his suspension against VfB Stuttgart.

The reunions

Union vice-captain Rani Khedira will meet up with old acquaintances on Sunday, having played for RasenBallsport from 2014 to 2017, making a total of 54 appearances. Christopher Lenz also moved to Leipzig in the last summer transfer window. The left-back played for Union between 2016 and 2021, made 72 appearances and was promoted to the Bundesliga with the club in 2019.

The head to head

In the nine Bundesliga encounters between the two teams to date, Union have emerged victorious five times, Leipzig four. There has not yet been a draw. Union have won the last two matches in Leipzig 2-1.

The personnel

Josip Juranović is unavailable for the match, otherwise all players in the squad are ready for action.

The coaches’ views ahead of the game

"Leipzig are strong opponents with good individual strength,” said Union’s assistant coach, Marie-Louise Eta, during her press conference on Friday afternoon. “They bring a high level of intensity and are dangerous when switching possession both after winning and losing the ball. They've not won in their last four games and people are quick to talk about a crisis at Leipzig. However, they have also played well in recent games and have the class to end a crisis at any time. We're looking forward to the game and will support each other on the pitch, be compact and try to capitalise on the opportunities Leipzig offer us."

Marco Rose, meanwhile, had this to say: "Union are an unpleasant opponent who are difficult to beat. It's important to know what to expect and to be prepared for it. We have to be able to react to their transitional play and defend well against set pieces. We need confidence and conviction in our own game on Sunday. We don't want to be passive, we want to be active and go for a good result here at home with our fans."

Service information

The guest block in Leipzig is sold out, so the Union can look forward to loud support from the stands. Fan merchandise can be purchased on site at the Mobile-Zeughaus. Information about visiting the stadium can be found here (German).

The match will be broadcast live on DAZN and there will also be an audio stream on rbb24 Inforadio and rbb24. As usual, Union will also provide information about the match via the club's own live ticker, as well as in English and Spanish on Twitter.

AFTV Videos

Alexander Schwolow

Alexander Schwolow

was Player of the Day for the last time against RB Leipzig

Alexander Schwolow

was Player of the Day against RB Leipzig


RB Leipzig vs 1. FC Union Berlin

66 % Possession 34 %
88 % Pass Completion Rate 77 %
55 % Successful Tackle Rate 45 %
16 Shots on Goal 10
13 Crosses 8
1 Yellow Cards 2
0 Yellow-Red Cards 0
0 Red Cards 1

Last match

Date Home Result Away