1. FC Union Berlin conceded three first-half goals and couldn't recover as the Köpenick club went down 3-1 at Darmstadt on week 32 of the 2.Bundesliga season.
Michael Parensen, who made his first appearance since the loss at Kaiserslautern in March, pulled one back in the final minutes, but the damage was already done. Strikes from Fabian Holland and Felix Platte hand the three points to Dirk Schuster's side, who move within a single point of the relegation play-off position.
Darmstadt XI: Heuer Fernandes; Sirigu, Bregerie, Sulu, Holland; Kempe, Medojevic (Kamavuaka 77); Ji, Mehlem (Stark 68), Jones; Platte (Boyd 84)
1. FC Union Berlin XI: Mesenhöler; Trimmel, Leistner, Friedrich, Torrejon, Pedersen (Parensen 73); Fürstner (Hosiner 68); Gogia (Daube 45), Redondo, Hedlund; Skrzybski
Andre Hofschneder's team struggled to get to grips with the early tempo setting of Darmstadt, who were unbeaten in eight previous games before kick off. Stephan Fürstner picked up an early yellow card in the ninth minute for a tactical foul on the fleet-footed Joevin Jones. The resistance though was futile as Darmstadt broke the deadlock three minutes later when left-back Holland wriggled past his marker to shoot home from close range. The hosts doubled their lead on 22 minutes, with Platte left unmarked to volley home under Mesenhöler after a flick on from Ji. Platte was left with enough room on 35 minutes to thump the ball home from a corner kick, leaving Union with a mountain to climb at the break.
The Berliners added extra defensive reinforcements in the shape of Dennis Daube at half time, with Akaki Gogia making way after a tough first 45 minutes. Hofschneider's side were stronger in defensive duels and played with greater organisation, but found it hard to break down a stubborn Darmstadt defensive shape. Fürstner popped up in a good position from the right and hit the side-netting, while Simon Hedlund was presented with an opening but Aytac Sulu did enough to take the sting out of the shot.
Austrian striker Philipp Hosiner was introduced with 22 minutes left, following a red-hot impact in the draw with Heidenheim last weekend. Chances continued to be few and far between, however, with final substitute Parensen sliding in a late consolation goal from Kenny Prince Redondo's left-footed cross.
"The game is quickly explained: Darmstadt outplayed us in the first half, especially during the early stages of the match. They won the important battles, defended consequently and capitalised effectively on their chances. It was simply not enough from us before the half-time whistle. In the end it was a well-deserved win for Darmstadt. We now have to quickly move on and focus on next weekend’s home match against Bochum so that we can secure a spot in the second division for next season," said head coach Hofschneider in the post-game press conference.