Union Berlin battled to a 2-1 win over 1.FC Saarbrucken and progress to the second round of the DFB Pokal.
A spell of extra time was required to split the sides after a draw in 90 minutes, and Simon Hedlund was on point to score his second goal in successive games.
The strong fourth-division side backed off in the opening stages, which allowed Union time to take control of the key areas. However, Saarbrücken were compact and aggressive in the press, limiting the number of key chances for the 2.Bundesliga team. So much so, that Union needed a corner kick to take the lead on 23 minutes, with Fabian Schönheim nodding home.
A second goal may have been enough to kill off any Saarbrücken resistance, but despite not playing at their home venue, the home fans willed the team on in the first period. Jens Keller’s side struggled to cope with the quick transitions; the space in behind forcing Daniel Mesenhöler to bring down Manuel Zietz for a penalty kick. Fortunately, the Union keeper did brilliantly to save from 12 yards.
The 22-year-old, selected ahead of Dane Jakob Busk, was in inspirational form and kept the Berliners ahead for long as he could. Mesenhöler was helpless on the interval when Kevin Behrens headed in from close range to the delight of the home supporters in Völklingen.
After a period of consistent pressure from Saarbrücken, Keller reached to the bench and introduced Sebastian Polter and Toni Leistner. Neither could really stem the flow of the tide with momentum firmly in the court of the hosts. More than 100 minutes would pass before Polter and substitute Marcel Hartel combined before Hedlund converted the winner from just a few yards out and send Die Eisernen through.
“First of all, I have to pay compliments to Saarbrücken. Today they had a wonderful game and made it very difficult for us. In the first 15-20 minutes, we had a real grip of the game as Saarbrücken paid us a lot of respect. They closed down the spaces and played well on the transition, something that we did not do. We can thank Daniel Mesenhöler today who played an exceptional game. But this is the Cup: we’ve got some luck and we are in the second round,” concluded Keller.
Next weekend, Union are back in 2.Bundesliga in action with a trip south again to 1.FC Nürnberg at the Max-Morlock-Stadion. The kick-off is 13:30 local time on Sunday August 20.