Max Kruse scored the decisive goal as 1. FC Union Berlin ended 2021 with three points at VfL Bochum.
The Union number 10 fired in the winning goal after 16 minutes to get Urs Fischer's side back on winning ways before the three-week winter break.
Bochum: Riemann; Soares, Masovic, Stafylidis (Bockhorn 59), Leitsch; Losilla, Osterhage (Novothny 75), Rexhbecaj; Pantovic, Antwi-Adjej (Gonvoula 75), Polter
1. FC Union Berlin: Luthe; Trimmel (Ryerson 76) Oczipka, Knoche, Friedrich, Jaeckel; Prömel, Khedira (Möhwald 90), Kruse (Voglsammer 76); Becker (Haraguchi 63), Awoniyi (Behrens 63)
The final game of the Hinrunde saw 1. FC Union Berlin head back to Bochum, where a 2-2 draw on the last weekend of the 2018/19 campaign saw the Köpenick club go into the relegation play-off. The rest is history in the end. Two and a half years later, Union returned to face Bochum who achieved promotion to the top flight last season under the stewardship of coach Thomas Reis. Urs Fischer made three changes from the midweek draw at home to Freiburg with Bastian Oczipka, Marvin Friedrich and Max Kruse starting. After two matches without a win, Union managed to rediscover the structure and cutting edge which has served Fischer's side so well this term. Christopher Antwi-Adjej threatened in behind with his pace but goalkeeper Andreas Luthe was in control of his penalty box at the home of his former club. On 16 minutes, Max Kruse shot Union into the lead with an excellent right-foot finish after a cross from Oczipka. A minute later, Union piled on the pressure but Manuel Riemann saved from Sheraldo Becker. Union played a first-half with control and dominance with Becker and Taiwo Awoniyi combining to good effect in forward areas. On 41 minutes, Oczipka fired wide from the left side of the area having powered his way into a dangerous area. At the other end, Luthe sweeped up a ball in behind which would have sent Antwi-Adjej into a scoring position on the stroke of the break. Before the half was out, Union stepped up their attacking play and may have gone into a two-goal lead. Christopher Trimmel joined the attack from the right-hand side but Riemann was up to the job at the Ruhrstadion.
Union faced a motivated Bochum side in the second half as they looked to recover something from their final match at the Ruhrstadion in 2021. But Urs Fischer's side continued to create the bulk of the opportunities to put the game beyond doubt. Awoniyi ran clear of the Bochum defence on 50 minutes but Masovic made a vital tackle to keep the Nigerian at bay. Grischa Prömel fired over on 52 minutes from a corner kick. At one end, the Köpenick club failed to kill the game early but Bochum fought back in the last half hour. Stafilidis fired into Luthe's grasp and Milos Pantovic missed from point-blank range on 59 minutes. Both teams dipped into their reserves to bring in fresh legs as fatigue become more and more a problem. Kevin Behrens and Genki Haraguchi were introduced while Bochum swapped midfield depth for two strikers in Soma Novothny and Silvere Ganvoula. With the 13,500 fans largely pushing the home team on, Bochum tried everything to get back into the match. A chance fell to Pantovic on 79 minutes and although Luthe looked beaten, the former Bayern youngster cannoned his finish against the crossbar. It was a sigh of relief for Fischer's side considering previous experiences in the league of losing late goals. This time, however, Union managed the game with consummate professionalism, keeping the ball and running down the clock to the frustration of the home support. A final win of 2021 keeps up the pressure on the Bundesliga's top six as the Bundesliga goes into vacation mode for the next few weeks.