Wow! We got an early bird here!

Union Beat Chemie 4-0

First Pre-Season Friendly Proves a Fine Start for Svensson

Sat, 06. July 2024
Union Beat Chemie 4-0

1. FC Union Berlin kicked off their 2024/5 campaign in some style - despite the rain - with a 4-0 win over BSG Chemie Leipzig on a wonderful saturday afternoon at the Alfred-Kunze-Sportpark. Rani Khedira opened the scoring, joined by Yorbe Vertessen, Benedict Hollerbach and the debutant, Ivan Prtajin

1. FC Union Berlin: Schwolow (45. Rodtnick) – Trimmel (46. Prosche), Doekhi (46. Jaeckel), Vogt (46. Král), Ogbemudia (46. Leite), Preu (46. Friedrich) – Khedira (46. Tousart), Kemlein (46. Haberer), Vertessen (46. Hollerbach) – Siebatcheu (46. Pratjin), Skarke (46. Bedia) 

BSG Chemie Leipzig: Bellot (53. Jahnke) – Brügmann, Horschig (60. Marino), Weigel, Kohn, Oke (46. Koeberer) – Bunge (46. Mäder), Mast, Kaymaz (82. Dogan) – Mauer (82. Kirstein), Ratifo (72. Jagatic)

The starting XI

For the first ever starting line-up of his new era in charge of 1. FC Union Berlin, Bo Svensson had a mixture of faces old and new. In goal, in the continued absence of Frederik Rönnow following his time at the European Championship, was Alex Schwolow, behind a back three of Kevin Vogt, Danilho Doekhi and Oluwaseun Ogbemudia. Olu had started the first friendly of last season, too, and big things are expected of the young man. They were flanked by Christopher Trimmel as the right wing-back with the 20-year-old David Preu, returning from a loan at VfR Aalen, on the left.

It also saw a direct return to action for Aljoscha Kemlein, following his successful loan at St. Pauli, who joined Rani Khedira in the heart of midfield, with Tim Skarke free to join Jordan Siebatcheu and Yorbe Vertessen up front.

Attendance: 4,999 
Goals: 0-1 Khedira (32.), 0-2 Vertessen (37.), 0-3 Hollerbach (49.), 0-4 Prtajin (77.) 

Khedira opens the scoring, Vertessen doubles it

40 years ago, back when this was a different country, Union and Chemie had finished level at the foot of the East German top flight. They had the same points, and the same goal difference, so a two-legged play-off was set to decide which of the sides would go down. After a 1-1 draw at the Alte Försterei, Chemie won out in the return leg, here at the Alfred-Kunze-Sportpark, a stadium that makes up for its ragged, rusting edges with enough charm to fill the bigger, newer Arena that it shares the city with ten times over.

The home-town heroes returned to the pitch during the half time break, as the rain poured down, bur refusing to dampen a sold-out crowd flocking the terrace in their honour.

The scoreboard atop that two-tiered stand behind one of the goals is a lesson in pre-digital simplicity; the fans filling it were in green and white, opposite the Unioner in red at the other end, revelling in the heat and the return to action. It was a wonderful setting to kick the season off.

But if those two ties have gone down in the clubs’ histories as a titanic struggle, with more than pride at stake, this was of a slightly more placid nature. There was little blood and fire, at least in the opening exchanges, and Svensson opted to patiently explain what he wanted from the excellent Kemlein during a brief break in play, finishing his instruction with his thumb and forefinger in the universal sign for “OK”, instead of shouting.

The heat was oppressive, the pitch lush, and Union felt their way back into action. Ogbemudia immediately showed his calmness on the ball, robbing Tim Bunge with determined ease, as well as his keenness to burst forward into midfield as when he beat the same man, striding up the middle; Skarke bustled past two as he tried to reach the opposition box.

But Chemie weren’t here just for fun. Stanley Ratifo got the first shot on target having skipped inside Doekhi from the left, hitting towards the near post from outside the box after ten minutes. Skarke went close a few minutes later when he lashed one over the bar following Kemlein’s typically unfussy ball inside. Indeed, little he does seems rushed. His passing is effective and neat, he is patient on the ball, and has a knack of being in the right place at the right time to break up the opponent’s play.

Jordan would go closer, striking the post after almost 20 minutes after Skarke teed him up on the run into the box from inside right, and even more so when his towering header smashed off the same upright with half an hour played. It had been a fantastic strike, following Skarke’s well hit cross, and the rebound fell neatly to Khedira, advancing into the box with the innate timing of a Samba star.

After the final whistle Khedira was carefully happy." Of course, the scheduling of this test was relatively early in the preparation, but we still did well. We don't want to waste a day and today we were able to implement some of the principles that the coach wants to see. That was a first, small step." 

The goal was seen as an indication for the football Gods to send the wild rainstorm that saw half the seated sector empty for the uncertain cover of whatever bit of roofing they could find.

Union were now bossing the game, with the double axis of Khedira and Kemlein stepping up, and Skarke enjoying plenty of width on the right. And the pressure told after 36 minutes when Vertessen opened his account for the season with a neatly taken shot from inside the box.

But then, with the half almost up, Chemie’s striker, Timo Mauer could only hold his head in his hands having taken Vogt’s mis-hit clearance down superbly, took a step forward and lashed a shot just wide of Schwolow’s right hand post. He wasn’t alone, the home fans in the main stand along the touchline all thought it had gone in as soon as he hit it, too.

It was, sadly, the German stopper’s last dive, he pulled up a few minutes later and limped sadly off the pitch, if at least under his own steam, replaced by the 18 year-old Jaden Rodtnick.

Hollerbach’s cheek, and Prtajin’s power make it four for the guests.

Svensson changed almost the entire side at half time, only Rodtnick remaining – and he’d not yet had a touch of the ball. So, Diogo Leite, Paul Jaeckel were either side of Alex Král, making up the back three, with Janik Haberer, Lucas Tousart and Benedict Hollerbach in midfield, behind Chris Bedia and the new signing, Ivan Prtajin up top. Julien Friedrich was on the left, Leon Prosche on the right.

Friedrich put a drive over the bar after just a couple of minutes – he’d have another cute effort, curled along the ground with the side of his boot, cleared by Julian Weigel later on -  but it was Hollerbach who would score first, hitting a delicious chip over the head of Chemie’s own sub-keeper, Jonas Janke, as he came rashly out of his goal towards the Union player as he headed towards the edge of the box.

If that showed his cheek, Bedia would have the next go, dragging his left-footed shot just wide as red smoked billowed out from through the netting behind that goal, bringing the game to a pause soon after. With the rain now torrential, it looked like a deleted scene from Apocalpypse now. But still neither set of fans showed any sign of stopping.

Tousart bent a free kick an inch over the bar with an hour played, the set-piece won by the dynamic Friedrich, drawing the foul as he came in from the left while, at the other end, Král, fitting in at centre back superbly for a midfielder - he has developed into a fine utility man, following his appearances at right back last year - scraped a shot away under pressure in his own box. Both he and Leite flattened Max Jagatic, challenging the Chemie striker in the air for the same ball.

Union’s fourth came from the debutant, Prtajin. He had already thrown himself at a Haberer cross that flashed past his forehead, but this time there was no mistake. Tousart drew a fine stop from Janke, but the keeper could only palm it back out to where the Croatian centre-forward drove it down the middle with power and a certain grace.

Svensson looked delighted; it is, after all, what he was signed for.

The game grew somewhat ragged in the last few minutes, as Jaeckel found himself involved all over the pitch, an ill-conceived drop of the shoulder in the centre-circle, followed by a burst up the right flank, and more than made up for by a superb sliding stop on Jagatic, but the final whistle came on the stroke of 90 minutes.

Svensson smiled, as he did when he said "You can't expect too much from the first test so soon after the start of summer preparations. However, we showed a lot of good things that we can build on in the coming weeks," after the final whistle.

 If the occasion marked a far tighter couple of encounters, ones in a different time and a different land, it had been a superb first day all round.