Kevin Behrens scored his first career Bundesliga goal to fire 1. FC Union Berlin to a 1-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld.
The Union striker, who scored the club's first group stage goal in the UEFA Europa Conference League a fortnight ago, smashed home an incredbile to finish to give Urs Fischer's team all three points.
1. FC Union Berlin: Luthe; Trimmel (Ryerson 78), Knoche, Friedrich, Baumgartl (Jaeckel 36), Gießelmann; Prömel (Haraguchi 78), Khedira; Voglsammer (Behrens 65), Kruse, Awoniyi (Becker 65)
Arminia Bielefeld: Ortega, Pieper, Nilsson, Laursen (Andrade 76), Schöpf (Krüger 76), Klos, Lasme (Wimmer 61), Okugawa (Kunze 76), Prietl, Hack, Brunner (De Medina 80)
Urs Fischer’s team was largely the same from the defeat in Dortmund apart from Christopher Trimmel’s return at full-back and Andreas Voglsammer’s inclusion against his former team. The Union number 9 who scored at Signal Iduna Park on Sunday was active and energetic in the opening stages of the game, denied early on by Sergio Ortega. Union had come out of the traps quicker than Frank Kramer’s team and despite the overall dominance, the net remained untouched. Niko Gießelmann put in a great delivery for Trimmel but he headed wide of the target. Voglammer headed wide about a minute or so later before he drew the ball back to Awoniyi whose shot was blocked. The full back five of Bielefeld earned their stripes early on with some dogged clearances to keep Union at bay. Kruse, the third of the front trio, came into the game after the first quarter of an hour as Union threatened from different areas of the park. Kruse drifted out wide to the left, cut inside on to his right but shot wide of Ortega’s goal. While Union were creating excellent chances, Ortega was able to stand and watch. Union finally pulled out a save from the Bielefeld goalkeeper when Kruse’s cross found Awoniyi but the striker headed straight down his throat. The visitors found their road through midfield generally blocked by Union’s compact structure, but Alessandro Schöpf did wriggle away from red shirts on 23 minutes and fired narrowly over the crossbar. Union coach Fischer has picked out some issues with his team over the course of the new campaign, playing in patches and not for the full 90 minutes. If there was a concern that Union would drop the tempo, that was generally quashed as Ortega remained the busier of the goalkeepers. Amos Pieper’s late intervention stopped Awoniyi from pulling the trigger as Union’s striker bore down on goal from the right-hand side of the pitch. A sour note for the supporters at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei was the head clash between Timo Baumgartl and Fabian Klos on 37 minutes. Baumgartl was taken off on a stretcher after a four-minute stoppage for treatment by the medical staff who were quick on the scene. The Union central defender was replaced by Paul Jaeckel who slotted into the left-sided role in the back-three. Despite the stop in play, Union maintained their sharpness and were back in complete control for the remainder of the first 45 minutes. Trimmel nodded the ball down on 38 minutes for Awoniyi from Gießelmann’s cross but the effort was straight at Ortega. The Bielefeld goalkeeper got a vital touch on Trimmel’s low cross a minute later as it was heading straight for Kruse who would have surely made it 1-0 for the home side before the teams went in for the break.
Both teams held on to the same intensity and it made for an end-to-end game. Despite a lack of opportunities, the game was wide open. It took the Köpenick club about 12 minutes to threaten inside the box, Kruse crossing for Trimmel who blazed his volley over the target. Arminia Bielefeld grew into the game and Union had to be aware of the potential threat. Three chances landed the way of the Fabian Klos and Robin Hack but Union held firm. Klos was blocked by Andreas Luthe before the Union number one made an exceptional save to keep out Hack's shot. Union found their groove once more after some fresh pairs of legs were introduced by Fischer and the staff. Sheraldo Becker and Behrens were added to the front line to ask new questions of the Bielefeld rearguard which up until then was batting everything away. On 68 minutes, Trimmel headed straight at Ortega from another whipped cross from Gießelmann. The skipper showed incredible fitness and desire to continuously get into the penalty area but an inch of luck was missing. Ortega needed to rely on his defenders to bail him out after a bizarre situation as Paul Jaeckel's interception near the corner flag deflected all the way towards goal which was left empty by the away goalkeeper. Substitute Julian Ryerson pushed again from the right but his shot was blocked by Andrade. Becker and Genki Haraguchi combined on the edge of the box but the strike landed well wide as Union did almost everything but score. Yet Union's sheer persistence was rewarded with two minutes of the game to go. Behrens took an awkward ball away from goal and then finished off with a wonderful stab past Ortega. The summer signing from Sandhausen celebrated his first European goal a fortnight ago from the substitute and made an immediate impact to secure all three points. The 30-year-old could have ended the 90 minutes with a second Bundesliga goal, volleying off the crossbar from range with Ortega completely beaten. Behrens' first Bundesliga goal was the difference between the sides and Union take home a vital three points to move forward.
Attention turns back to the UEFA Europa Conference League and 1. FC Union Berlin welcome Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa to the Olympic Stadium on Thursday evening.