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Union Beat Magdeburg

Hollerbach and Bedia Score in Thursday's Friendly

Thu, 21. March 2024
Union Beat Magdeburg

1. FC Union Berlin beat 1. FC Magdeburg on Thursday afternoon in their international-break-friendly at the Alte Försterei. Benedict Hollerbach scored two, before Chris Bedia put away his first in an Union shirt, quarter of an hour into the second half

1. FC Union Berlin: Busk (69. Arslanogullari) – Trimmel (75. Schleinitz), Jaeckel, Knoche, Doekhi (46. Vogt), Roussillon (75. Scholz) – Král, Tousart (75. Engelbreth), Volland (46. Vertessen) – Bedia (60. Kaufmann), Hollerbach (60. Gosens) 

1. FC Magdeburg: Reimann (63. Kruth) – Nollenberger, Hugonet, Heber, Bockhorn (68. Amaechi) – Elfadi (46. Condé), Gnaka, Atik (68. Teixeira) – El Hankouri (68. Bell Bell), Schuler, Ito (63. Ceka)

The starting XI

With six Union players away on international duty this lunchtime friendly was always going to be about those who aren’t always in the starting eleven – the bedrock of every squad – mixing in with those who are every week, as well as a chance for some of Union’s youth prospects to get a run out in front of a crowd of over 3,000 people. Personifying this approach from Nenad Bjelica was the sight of Jakob Busk in goal, Union’s second longest serving player behind a back three of Robin Knoche in the middle, Danilho Doekhi on the left and, fresh from signing his new contract at the club, Paul Jaeckel on the right of the three. Christopher Trimmel and Jérôme Roussillon were the wing-backs.

The midfield was made up of Alex Král, Lucas Tousart and Benedict Hollerbach - though he’d be given the freedom to maraud as he pleased – behind a Kevin Volland who would drop deeper accordingly, and Chris Bedia as the central striker, making his starting debut.

Attendance:3.711 

Goals:1-0 Hollerbach (10.), 2-0 Hollerbach (31.), 2-1 Schuler (56.), 3-1 Bedia (59.) 

Hollerbach scores, first with his left, then with his right

Following the torrential rain of the morning, this friendly kicked off under glorious blue skies, the optimism of spring in the air, the booming of the Ultras in the Waldseite replaced by the shrill tones of schoolkids in the first rows. The youth filling the void of the experienced was more than a metaphor though for an enjoyable afternoon’s football, where neither side seemed to be willing to sacrifice too much for a result that mattered little.

Fittingly the game was slow to come to life, but it was Hollerbach who saw most of the ball in the opening phases, always looking to take it on, tormenting Jean Hugonet as he went this way and that, cutting inside and out.

Indeed, it was he who made it 1-0 for Union with almost ten minutes played, following a driving run past two flailing defenders, and an assured finish with his left having come in diagonally from the inside right channel.

But it wasn’t all one-sided. If they looked as fragile as second-hand china at the back, Magdeburg came back at Union after that. Busk saved at close range from Jan-Luca Schuler, and it took Roussillon to head Schuler’s later cross from the left away and out for a corner. Tatsuya Ito looked sharp down the left, nipping the ball past Trimmel inside the box before crossing. But even when Herbert Bockhorn got the run on Trimmel, Knoche was there to sweep up, his link with the skipper still telepathic. Busk was out smartly a while later to intercept Bockhorn before he could burst through on goal.

You could see from his first touch how much Bedia wanted to make an impression on the game. He had the first shot of the day – if one a little scuffed - as he was to be seen sweeping up in his own box when Magdeburg pushed up halfway through the first half. He shot over and wide with his left after eight minutes, unable to get enough swerve on the ball to bring it inside the top corner he was aiming for.

He then headed just wide, rising high in the box, his back straight, his head up and eyes wide open, from Roussillon’s deep cross after almost 25 minutes. It dropped however, heartbreakingly for the Ivorian, an inch wide of the left hand upright.

Yet it was also he who drew the foul from Daniel Heber after half an hour that gave Trimmel a dangerous free kick during the passages of play that would ultimately lead up to Union’s second goal.

That came as Hollerbach got an inch in front of Heber following another darting run, and drove with his right this time, across the keeper and inside the back post, the finish almost a mirror image of his first.

Mohammed El Hankouri should have scored shortly after for the guests, after a gorgeous deep ball out right set Baris Atik away on the right, his cross into the box pinpoint, but the finish was put wide when he had time to simply side-foot home.

Then Jaeckel - the only remaining starter form the side who won the last friendly between the sides back in 2022 - nipped in front of Schuler with a well-timed challenge before the big Magdeburg striker could pull the trigger on his shot.

Hollerbach saw another drive saved this time by Dominik Reimann with his legs, resulting in the corner that Kevin Volland volleyed well over.

Magdeburg get one back, before Bedia gets his goal

Nenad Bjelica made two changes at half time, bringing on Yorbe Vertessen and Kevin Vogt for Danilho Doekhi and Kevin Volland, Vertessen seeing his first shot saved after five minutes on the pitch when he made a familiar, bursting run up the middle.

But it would be Magdeburg who took the lead, Schuler rolling the ball into the back of the net after Union had been cut apart by a fine move that saw it squared for him with the greatest of ease. It was all Busk could do to look on.  

Vertessen was making a nuisance of himself with his pace, but it wasn’t that which would allow Union to counter almost immediately, it was his gorgeous pass, played with the outside of his right foot from the left hand side, to Bedia that would give Union their third, and the Swiss his long sought after first since his signing from Servette in the winter.

He scored confidently, having taken two deft, silken touches to nudge the ball into position, rolling away in satisfaction, if being careful not to overdo his celebrations. If it was only a friendly, this was, however, an important step, and he could be forgiven for feeling a little lighter on his toes as he left the field a moment later, replaced by Mikkel Kaufmann.

Union, with daylight again between them and their guests, created more openings as the half went on. Jaeckel hit the bar with one header, Knoche just went over it with the next, and Vertessen was inches away from sliding onto Kaufmann’s ball across the face of goal with 25 minutes to play.

But all of that seemed somewhat immaterial after 65 minutes however when Busk rose to claim a routine high ball into the box with typical ease, but instantly collapsed onto the floor holding his right leg. Knoche took one look at him and turned to the bench to say he’d need to come off. The keeper was led off by one of his trainers under each shoulder, wincing in pain and wracked with disappointment.

But if for Busk it was a moment of unfair fallibility, for his replacement, Berkin Arslanogullari, it was one of the proudest moments of his career so far, a first-team debut at 18, and an assured one at that, even if he faced few direct threats to his goal. He was just seven years old when Busk made his professional debut for FC Copenhagen back in 2013.

He would soon be joined on the pitch by his under 19’s teammates, Noah Engelbreth, Tim Schleinitz and Jerome Scholz, coming on for Trimmel, Tousart and Roussillon with 15 minutes to play. Scholz turned Bryan Teixeira and Xavier Amaechi inside out before playing a simple ball to Gosens. Engelbreth moved the ball across the middle with the simplicity of an old pro to Schleinitz shortly before.

Bjelica was happy with what he had seen, saying how his side had “tried to put Magdeburg under pressure as much as possible… I saw a lot of positives from my team."

The weight off Bedia's shoulders, they’ll all have enjoyed their chances to shine on the bigger stage. At the final whistle, they all took their place in front of the Waldseite, ready to face the next challenge.