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VfB Stuttgart vs 1. FC Union Berlin

Bundesliga, 25. Matchday

Stuttgart vs 1. FC Union

Bundesliga, 25. Matchday

Fri., 08. March 2024, 20:30 Uhr
Stuttgart Arena
2 : 0
53.800
SR: Robert Schröder

Union Lose in Stuttgart

Match report

1. FC Union Berlin lost 2-0 on Friday night to VfB Stuttgart despite an otherwise good performance against superb opposition who made the best of the few chances they had. Serhou Guirassy and Chris Führich’s goals were made only harder to counter following Andras Schäfer’s harsh second half red card.

VfB Stuttgart: Nübel – Vagnoman, Rouault (46. Anton), Ito – Stenzel (60. Leweling), Karazor, Stiller (82. Dahoud), Mittelstädt – Millot (60. Undav), Führich (82. Jeong) – Guirassy 

1. FC Union Berlin: Rönnow – Juranović, Doekhi, Vogt, Leite (82. Roussillon), Gosens (82. Bedia) – Tousart, Khedira (65. Král), Schäfer – Volland (73. Aaronson), Vertessen (65. Hollerbach) 

The starting XI

With an entire squad at his disposal for the first time since he arrived at Union, Nenad Bjelica’s starting eleven bore few great surprises. Frederik Rönnow was in goal behind the back three of Danilho Doekhi, Kevin Vogt and Diogo Leite, flanked by the wing-backs Josip Juranović on the right and Robin Gosens, back from his suspension, on the left.

Ahead of them Rani Khedira was the holding midfielder, alongside Lucas Tousart and Andras Schäfer, while up top were Kevin Volland and alongside him, the biggest change of the week, the return of Yorbe Vertessen as a starter for the first time since his debut in Leipzig.

Attendance: 53.800 

Goals:  1-0 Guirassy (19.), 2-0 Führich (65.) 

Guirassy gives the hosts the lead. Union rue their missed chances

After a couple of minutes so placid one could be forgiven for wondering if the game had really started at all, Union suddenly burst into life at a roaring MHPArena, with the buoyant home fans still struggling to keep volume with the hoards of travelling Unioner.

Vertessen, desperate to prove that he had facilities on the pitch that made him deserving of his place at last, started as if he'd been plugged into the mains. Schäfer - a constant menace until his sending off - was snapping away in the centre-circle, and somehow caused the ball to come out right, from where it was flicked up high, falling at the toe of the Belgian who cut inside both Anthony Rouault and Pascal Stenzel at pace. He could, however, only drag his shot wide of the near post.

If that was a sign of how things could have gone with better finishing, at the back Union were suddenly holding on during a torrid five minute burst. Stuttgart are third in the league with good reason. First, a cross from the left dropped to Chris Führich, before it then took Rönnow to punch the ball away from the feet of Enzo Millot. Rouault was then found an inch offside as Guirassy found him threatening inside the six-yard box.

Millot then shot over after a fine cut back ball from the left from Führich after 12 minutes. Stuttgart were pressing hard, but Union steadied themselves, and were content to ride their luck a little, because they knew that their hosts' very bravery on the ball would also leave them the occasional opening to take advantage of. Stuttgart's strength could just as easily become their weakness.

And just that happened when Gosens seized upon a stray pass from keeper, Alexander Nübel, and set up Schäfer. Last weekend’s goalscorer, however, saw his shot well stopped by the now recovered keeper, diving to his left.

But it would be through familiar means that the hosts would take the lead. Deja- bloody - vu. Josha Vagnoman found Atakan Karazor who hit a superb, early ball to Serhou Guirassy, who had timed his run to perfection, springing Union’s offside trap like a veteran safe-cracker. He took a single touch before blasting the ball into the net before Rönnow could even set himself.

19 minutes had been played. Exactly three minutes longer than the time it took for the Guinean to score the opener against Union, back in their 3-0 win in the last league match between the sides in October. It felt like it had been his first touch of the ball. As against Dortmund last week, Union had played well, but were now behind. 

Union were caught between trying to agitate for more of those mistakes, and not leaving any more gaps at the back. It would take another 10 minutes until Volland’s shot was picked up by Nubel at his near post, and 12 until Tousart’s lovely, barrelling run was stopped by Rouault at the edge of the box.

Tousart was now playing more in a position more advanced than Schäfer, at the tip of the midfield, and was imposing himself. He would have a better chance - though also one he carved out for himself - following Karazor’s carelessness on the edge of the box but he leant back while shooting and bent the ball over the bar. He then got in ahead of Hiroki Ito but was at too tight an angle to shoot at the near post, with the ball too far ahead of him to cut it back into the box.

There was still time for Rönnow to save superbly from Vagnoman, following a sweeping break. The keeper made himself as big as he could, like you’re told to do with a bear approaching, and he threw out his right hand to bat the ball away, but the sides would go down the tunnel with just the single goal making the difference.

Führich make it two, Schäfer sees red

Tousart couldn’t have come closer than he did just a couple of minutes into the second half, when he saw his bullet header saved by Nubel, the chance coming from a corner he had won though sheer bloody-mindedness it seemed.

It was another chance that Union would regret not going in. As Gosens said later, "For Stuttgart to win is okay, but at the same time it's a bit sad that we weren't able to take advantage of our good opportunities.”

There were fewer high points as the game’s pace dropped. Rönnow saved well from Führich, from the left, but he was never under the greatest of pressure, having seen the shot coming a long way off.

As their back three held Stuttgart off manfully, and with no little confidence, Schäfer remained a whir of action, refusing to give up. He tackled Guirassy having chased back a mile, but the moment of the first 20 minutes of the half wasn't in a flowing move, or a lightning break, but was when Gosens brought down a ball out on the right, killing it at shoulder height, keeping it inside the touchline with gorgeous, acrobatic precision. 

But as the game threatened to meander off into the smoke from the Union fans’ flares, Führich suddenly got an inch of space in the box, carrying, apprently, little immediate threat. But, in a painful reminder of all those goals of a lifetime that have flown in against Union this year - from Beste to Schlotterback - as if out of nowhere, he looked up and whipped the ball past Rönnow, into the top right corner. The keeper was flat-footed, he didn’t stand a chance.

It was a superb finish, if it felt like a dagger to the hearts of the thousands of Unioner who had travelled the best part of a thousand kilometres, evading strikes on a bank holiday to be here.

But if those fans refused to grow weary, it seemed as if their players started to against a side that are deservedly third in the table. Alex Král and Benedict Hollerbach came on for Khedira and Vertessen, but they had barely taken to the pitch when Schäfer caught Vagnoman on the thigh near the halfway line.

He held his hands up, but was immediately shown a red card by referee, Robert Schröder. He looked stunned – the decision looked harsh - and walked off, his hands together, mouthing his disbelief. Union would have to play 20 minutes down to ten men.

Bjelica refused to comment on it directly after the final whistle, but betrayed his feelings when saying, “if that’s a red, then we’ll get four or five of them per game.”

But he reacted to it at the time, bringing on Brenden Aaronson for Volland, and the young American would at least make an impact, winning a free kick that Waldemar Anton put just over his own bar with six minutes of normal time to play. But by this point they were largely chasing shadows and Jamie Leweling – on loan from Union – should have done better with his cross having broken so convincingly down the inside left.

Though they never stopped trying, by the time that Jérôme Roussillon and Chris Bedia came on for Leite and Gosens, Union had little hope, despite Bedia’s willingness to drop deep to try and get on the ball, or Hollerbach’s wrestling with Vagnoman on the byline as the clock ticked away. The pair of them tried to get on the end of a chance after Bedia had robbed Ito, but they were clutching at straws by this point.

After the final whistle Khedira was keen to point out how well Union had played – particularly in the first half – and that with a bit of luck things could have ended very differently. His boss, Bjelica, had just as few answers, after he had praised Stuttgart’s goalscorers.

“We just need to work harder,” he said. And, ahead of next week's visit from Werder Bremen, you can only be sure that they will. 

Union Travel to Stuttgart

Match preview

Next Friday, 08.03.2024, 1. FC Union Berlin will play away against VfB Stuttgart. Kick off at the MHPArena in the Bundesliga’s 25th match day is at 20:30.

The lie of the land

VfB Stuttgart won 3-2 in Wolfsburg last weekend, a game that saw, Serhou Guirassy scoring his fourth brace of the season, taking his tally to 20 goals and three assists after 18 appearances.

Union, meanwhile, lost 2-0 at home to Borussia Dortmund.

The opponents

VfB Stuttgart are currently enjoying the best season in the club's history - even better at this stage than when they won the title in 2007 - and the best of any third-placed team in Bundesliga history. After 24 games played, the Swabians’ 50 points have come from 16 wins, only two draws and six losses. This puts them just four points behind the current champions Bayern, and six ahead of fourth placed Borussia Dortmund. Their 31 goals conceded are offset by the 55 goals scored making them the third-best attack in the league.

Much of this has been due to the attacking duo of Guirassy and Deniz Undav who with 34 goals and eight assists already this season, are behind only the duo of Harry Kane and Leroy Sané in the league. The two Bayern players have 35 goals and 16 assists between them.

Stuttgart have proved particularly difficult to beat in their own stadium. In 12 games at home, Sebastian Hoeneß’s side have won nine times and drawn twice, including against league leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Their single loss at the MHPArena came back in October when they lost 3-1 to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Following a 1-0 win against Union and 2-0 win over Dortmund, Stuttgart’s DFB Pokal journey came to an end in the quarter-finals when, thanks to a late goal from Jonathan Tah, they were overturned 3-2 by Leverkusen.

The reunions

There will be a reunion with Genki Haraguchi: The now 32-year-old Japanese player played for 1. FC Union Berlin from July 2021 until the beginning of last year. Since then, Haraguchi has played for VfB. Jamie Leweling is also currently on loan to the Swabians.

Rani Khedira and Benedict Hollerbach also have Stuttgart links. The former was at the club and played 128 times for the club, from the U17’s to the first team. The latter, meanwhile, played under current VfB coach Sebastian Hoeneß in the U19s of FC Bayern Munich.

The head to head

The two teams have met seven times in Germany's top flight, with Union winning three, losing one (in the first half of the current season), while the other three ended in draws. Union also achieved promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time following two memorable clashes against Stuttgart at the end of the 2018/2019 season in the relegation play-offs. A 2-2 draw in the first leg in Baden-Württemberg was followed by a 0-0 draw at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, which was enough to secure promotion to the Bundesliga thanks to the away goals rule.

Personnel

Head coach Nenad Bjelica has the entire squad at his disposal.

The coaches’ views ahead of the game

"VfB Stuttgart are an opponent that have put in outstanding performances this season and has shown a particular strength at home,” said Union’s head coach, Nenad Bjelica, during his press conference on Thursday afternoon. “We're looking forward to the game and believe we will get our chances, which we want to exploit efficiently. We can draw from a full squad and want to be compact and organized so that we can reward ourselves against a top-four team."

Meanwhile VfB coach Hoeneß saw the game on Friday evening thus: "They've taken a lot of points under the new coach. They are in the middle of the table and have totally stabilized. They're hard-working and play deep. It's not easy to score goals against Union. It's a big board that we have to drill." "I'm delighted, and so are the lads. Floodlit games at home, sold out - that's something special. But we want to score points with a good game. That has to be the goal," Hoeneß continued.

Service information

Union will be supported by a good 2,600 fans in Stuttgart. Further information on your trip 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 in the club's own live ticker, as well as in English and Spanish on Twitter.

AFTV Videos

Frederik Rønnow

Frederik Rønnow

was Player of the Day for the last time against Stuttgart

Frederik Rønnow

was Player of the Day against Stuttgart

MatchStatistics

VfB Stuttgart vs 1. FC Union Berlin

70 % Possession 30 %
90 % Pass Completion Rate 80 %
49 % Successful Tackle Rate 51 %
14 Shots on Goal 9
12 Crosses 5
2 Caught Offside 2
1 Yellow Cards 2
0 Yellow-Red Cards 0
0 Red Cards 1

Last match

Date Home Result Away