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Dortmund Beat Union

Home Side's Excellent Performance not Rewarded

Sat, 02. March 2024
Dortmund Beat Union

1. FC Union Berlin lost 2-0 to Borussia Dortmund on a furious, and often super performance on saturday afternoon at the Alte Försterei. The goals were scored at the end of each half by Karim Adeyemi and Ian Maatsen

1. FC Union Berlin: Rönnow – Juranović, Doekhi, Vogt, Leite (80. Bedia), Roussillon (69. Trimmel) – Tousart (61. Haberer), Khedira (69. Aaronson), Schäfer – Volland, Hollerbach (61. Vertessen)

Borussia Dortmund: Meyer – Ryerson, Süle, Schlotterbeck, Maatsen – Can, Sabitzer – Sancho (88. Bensebaini), Brandt (65. Özcan), Adeyemi (78. Bynoe-Gittens)– Füllkrug

The starting XI
Nenad Bjelica spoke in his press conference on Thursday of the difficulties he faces, all wrapped up in the joy of having almost his entire squad available. He started, of course, with Frederik Rönnow in goal behind a back three of Danilho Doekhi, Kevin Vogt and Diogo Leite, the latter’s return from suspension meaning that he would take up the left position in his 50th Bundesliga game for the club, allowing Vogt to come back into the middle, leaving Robin Knoche back on the bench.

Josip Juranović started again as the right wing-back, just as he did against Heidenheim, while Jérôme Roussillon replaced the suspended Robin Gosens on the left.
In midfield Rani Khedira was once again the anchor, alongside Andras Schäfer and Lucas Tousart, while up front Benedict Hollerbach was partnered by Kevin Volland, himself replacing Brenden Aaronson.

Attendance: 22.012

Goals: 0-1 Adeyemi (41.), 0-2 Maatsen (90.)

Union make all the running, but Adeyemi gives the guests the lead

The first half stuttered into life, first as Roussillon was floored by an unintentional elbow from Jadon Sancho, then as the away block suddenly poured yellow and black smoke all over the pitch, cast with shadows in the sunshine, but forcing the referee, Christian Dingert, to make the players wait.

But if it soon cleared - and as Union played the ball about the back, Leite to Doekhi to Vogt, all back in their usual positions, and as Roussillon chased Jaden Sancho all the way back into his own half -  despite the haze remaining on the pitch, it seemed Union had a certain clarity, only wanting to get the ball forward as fast as they could.

Volland found Hollerbach on the run, he cut back and laid the ball back, a back-heeled gift in return to Tousart who in turn had seen Hollerbach’s continued run, darting towards the back post. He placed the ball for him but he missed the ball there by an inch.
Union looked full of confidence, looking to hit their guests at a pace Dortmund seemed curiously unprepared for.

Things would soon settle down as Dortmund looked to control possession, but Union weren’t inclined to give them much space in which to manipulate the ball as Schäfer, Tousart and Volland snapped into tackles in the midfield, and as Juranović looked to cut in from the right and with Roussillon bombing up the left, even going on a 25 yard run up the middle after quarter of an hour, dodging tackles like a running back, his shoulders dropping one way and then the other as he wended his way through.

Schäfer was everywhere, he nipped at the heels of Marcel Sabitzer, winning the ball cleanly and releasing Hollerbach, but there was no-one in the box to get on the end of his cross. He was brought down by Ian Maatsen, wining a corner as he went that suddenly saw Dortmund break from it. But Roussillon was there, as he would be a thousand times and more, suddenly springing Schäfer away again.

Union won another corner. Then another. Schäfer nipped in again, this time in front of Niklas Süle. They won another. But nothing came of them, they were just whispers on goal, flicks and feints but nothing loud enough to make the ultimate difference.

Still, Dortmund couldn’t breathe, and it was less from the smoke still lingering in the air, but the Unioner’s collective foot on their throat.

Schäfer was irrepressible. Even when floored by Maatsen he managed to toe-end the ball along the touchline to the superb Tousart (having another superb game). When he chased Sancho and Julian Brandt back towards his own corner flag, there was still only going to be one winner.

Khedira joined in the show after half an hour, robbing Adeyemi, and setting Hollerbach away. He found Volland in turn who opted to shoot but lifted it over the bar at the near post.

But for all Union’s pressure, they hadn’t drawn a stop from Alex Meyer, a point illustrated when their own keeper was suddenly, and superbly called into lightning action. Rönnow made an astonishing save from Nico Schlotterbeck after 34 minutes, as he snuck in at the back post from a corner and would have finished were it not for the Union stoppers astonishing reflex save.

He then made another one, one-handed, diving to his right, from Brandt a few minutes later when, again, it seemed the ball had beaten him. His hand appeared from nowhere, like it was on a slingshot.

Suddenly it seemed as if Union may have rued the few saves they’d made Alex Meyer make, as Adeyemi cut inside from the left. For the first time he had enough time to think and bent his shot in off the underside of the bar with five minutes of the half to play.

Schäfer, speaking after the final whistle, called the goal “beautiful,” if ruefully. It was certainly a hell of a strike.

Though the guests now saw their own confidence surging, Union stuck to their plan, and it almost bore fruit as Hollerbach chased down Meyer with seconds of the half to play, but it wasn’t to be.

They would go into the tunnel wondering how they weren’t ahead. Let alone how they were behind.

Despite Union’s fight, Dortmund double their lead

As furious as the game was, even as soon as the re-start came, you couldn’t say the setting wasn’t pretty as a picture.

Tousart sprung a gorgeous ball across field to Roussillon as an orange sun set over the main stand, before it took the full weight of Nilas Süle to stop Hollerbach down the same wing. But at the other end Sancho jumped on a slack Schäfer pass and set up Niclas Füllkrug, whose near post shot was saved, again, superbly by Rönnow.

Khedira and Tousart radiated calm, they moved the ball simply and precisely, the perfect counterweights to their frantic team-mates further up field.

Roussillon shot into the crowd from the edge of the box, Ryerson had to be quick to get in front of Hollerbach when Juranović saw him in an inch of space running towards the box. Meyer somehow tipped Volland’s shot from close range after Hollerbach’s dogged refusal to give up the ball on the edge of the six yard box after 55 minutes.

It was the closest Union had come to a goal. They were getting, at least, closer.

With half an hour to play Bjelica made his first changes, Yorbe Vertessen and Janik Haberer coming on for Hollerbach and Tousart, and again Union poured forwards; the cries of “shoot” ringing out as first Leite then his partner at the back, Doekhi, picked up the ball outside the box.

The game was now wide open, and you couldn’t take your eyes off it as it flowed from one end to the other and back again.

Sancho failed to find Füllkrug when put through into the inside right; Maatsen chased Vertessen all the way back to his own corner; Khedira robbed Adeyemi before sliding purposefully, yet gracefully to stop the ball going out of play. It was his last touch - if a fine one - as he was replaced immediately alongside Roussillon by Brenden Aaronson and Christopher Trimmel, who took the armband.

Dortmund came back at Union, the excellent Leite tackling Adeyemi in the box with the greatest of ease; Haberer getting a yellow card for a brave tackle on Salih Özcan.

When Özcan then brought down Aaronson shortly afterwards the cries of the scorned Unioner were deafening. When Emre Can brought down Vertessen they were doubly so. When Leite was penalised for a tackle on Adeyemi a moment later they were tripled.
The Portuguese centre-half was taken off off shortly afterwards, replaced by Chris Bedia, the final throw of Bjelica’s dice.

But the crowd were now largely a roaring mass of partisan cries and whistles. If the Union players needed few excuses to get up for the final ten minutes, they now were sure they had them.

Bedia’s first touch was uncertain, but his second assured as he knocked down a ball for Aaronson, certain his vicious shot had struck a hand in the box.

Schäfer cut inside and found Volland, but his shot was straight at Meyer. The excellent Haberer then found Vertessen who squirmed away from Ryerson, his shot from the floor on the roll somehow flying wide.

But then, suddenly,  it would be two.

Juranović was knocked off the ball by Maatsen, halfway between the 18-yard-box and the centre circle, but play went on as the Dutch full-back bore down on goal. He finished. Even as the jubilant Dortmund players celebrated in front of their fans the decision went to VAR as Juranović still lay prone on the floor, but the video assistant soon gave up his check. Union’s Croatian full-back was led off the pitch, the whistles in the crowd still stinging the ears of all around, incensed, livid at the perceived injustice of it all.

Schäfer shared their pain, if at least partly, saying that Union “were the better team” but acknowledging that had they taken their chances, things might have turned out differently.
Bjelica echoed his midfielder.

"Our first 30 minutes were very strong, we won a lot of duels and balls. Unfortunately, we often made the wrong decisions in counter-attacking situations and missed the chance to take the lead ourselves or equalize the deficit.”

If the Unioner’s ire at the final whistle was unremitting, they also knew that their side had given everything they had. As did the boss.

“Nevertheless, I'm satisfied with my team's performance overall," he said. Union will play worse than this this season and win.