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Union Fight for a Point in Gladbach

Volland Hits the Bar Twice in Excellent Performance

Sun, 28. April 2024
Union Fight for a Point in Gladbach

1. FC Union Berlin played out a goalless draw away  - and with it taking a vital point - against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Sunday afternoon, where only the woodwork kept them, and particularly Kevin Volland who hit it twice, from victory.

1. FC Union Berlin:Rönnow – Juranović (86. Trimmel), Doekhi, Vogt (46. Knoche), Leite, Gosens – Tousart, Khedira, Aaronson (74. Hollerbach) – Volland (86. Kaufmann), Vertessen (46. Schäfer) 
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Nicolas – Friedrich, Elvedi, Chairodia (79. Koné) – Lainer (66. Netz), Reitz, Itakura, Scally – Cvancara (66. N’Goumou), Pléa (88. Siebatcheu), Hack (79. Honorat) 

The starting XI

Nenad Bjelica had resisted the urge to make full-scale changes following last week’s 5-1 loss to FC Bayern, starting with Frederik Rönnow, as ever in goal. He was behind Bjelica’s usual back three of Diogo Leite, Kevin Vogt and Danilho Doekhi, with Josip Juranović returning to the starting eleven on the right, while Robin Gosens continued on the left.

In the centre of midfield, Rani Khedira was paired alongside Lucas Tousart; up front was the dynamic looking trident of Brenden Aaronson, Yorbe Vertessen and Kevin Volland.

Attendance: 53.723 

Volland hits the bar, but a tense half remains goalless

The first half started off in a haze of smoke, the midfield already a mess of players in this biggest of games for both sides, Khedira challenging Lainer in a sure sign of the battle to come. Aaronson was dropping back; Volland with the first shot on goal, if his effort from out on the right was held easily by Nicolas in the Gladbach goal.

But almost immediately after Alassane Plea was breaking the other way, the pressure from the onrushing Khedira enough to cause him to scuff his shot straight at Rönnow. Plea was finding pockets of space, and it took a well-timed intervention from Leite to stop his next run through the middle after eight minutes.

Union’s determination to play short passes between themselves almost saw them run into danger at the back, as Leite and Gosens worked their way out of the tightest of spaces down Union’s right, but it also showed their confidence on the ball, the lack of fear that Nenad Bjelica had said they’d need in a game that saw both sides fighting for their lives.

Ultimately, their's was a plan that worked out well. 

Rönnow held Tomas Cvancara’s shot from the edge of the box well after quarter of an hour; Vogt did well to get in ahead of Plea as he drifted out left a minute later, while at the other end Nico Elvedi made a superb block on Vertessen as he threatened. Leite once again tackled Cvancara with the minimum of fuss under pressure, and Ko Itakura shot over as the game swung one way, and then the other.

The first big chance, however, fell to Volland who crashed the ball off the bar with a wonderful, dipping, swerving strike after 24 minutes, having beaten Nicolas all ends up. He was drifting left and right, and his next moment was a lovely touch out on the left as Union were getting more and more into the game. Aaronson saw his 35th minute shot from 35 yards saved by Nicolas to his right.

But they had to be careful. Stefan Lainer suddenly found himself free on the inside right, but chose to cross to no-one – Vogt chested it back to Rönnow harmlessly – instead of taking on the chance. Cvancara barged Leite off the ball before crossing to Plea, but he scuffed at the shot, it coming eventually to Joseph Scally who shot over when he could have done better.

Union came back. Vertessen saw his shot gobbled up by Nicolas under pressure from Elvedi; Tousart’s cross was then deflected back to the keeper off a stray, lunging Gladbach boot. The superb Doekhi, meanwhile, came together with Lainer as the half wore down and both sides strove to get their noses ahead in front in the toughest of games.  Vogt would get a yellow for a pull back on Cvancara with only a minute of normal time to be played of the half. Itakura volleyed the free kick into the ground and over the bar.

Volland hits the post, but the game remains goalless

Bjelica made two changes immediately at the break, bringing on Robin Knoche and Andras Schäfer for Vogt and Vertessen, but it was Lainer who made the first decisive move, getting a yellow card for his late, knee-high challenge on Aaronson before the refere had chance to take breath. He wasn’t alone. Rani Khedira joined him in the book a minute later.

Though the goals were still not forthcoming, there were suddenly chances at both ends. It was pulsating stuff, a superb clash.

And it was Nicolas who made the greater impression, his diving stop enough to fingertip Gosens’ brilliant shot from the edge of the box over the bar. Tousart followed it up a minute later with a screamer that flew wide by millimetres. Union were throwing everything at their hosts. Tousart, superb all game long, saw his bullet header stopped by Nicolas as it seemed certain to fly in. With 20 minutes to play he also saw a left footed shot deflected out for a corner.

Though Cvancara saw his own header held happily in the safe hands of Rönnow, Union could do everything but score, and Volland hit the near post after Elvedi’s mistake under pressure from Schäfer left the striker open, if at the tightest of angles, and the atmosphere in the Borussia Park crackled, the Unioner in their corner never giving up, even as Schäfer skied his shot when clear in front of goal following Touart’s flat ball across the box.

Even as their former hero, Marvin Friedrich saw his own shot fly just over the bar at the other end, and substitute, Nathan Ngoumou’s, shot cannoned off Doekhi away for a corner with ten minutes to play.

Just as they held their collective breath for the shortest of seconds as Franck Honorat was an inch away from heading home.

Bjelica made his final changes with a couple of minutes to go, Christopher Trimmel and Mikkel Kaufmann replacing Juranović and Volland.

As the three minutes of time added on started to disappear, Union pushed on nonetheless. Kaufmann flashed at a header from Hollerbach’s cross, before Kaufmann couldn’t get hold of a shot from 25 yards, and at the other end it took Knoche to block Ngoumou’s shot.

Freddie Rönnow made the last decisive move from Friedrich’s header, pouncing to his right, but that was that. Union had won an important point; the tension, somehow relieved, but also somehow raised as the Unioner looked to next week’s home match against Bochum.

Bjelica called his side's courageous performance, "a sign of life", while Volland, too, was happy with the way his side played, only rueing the damned woodwork, saying, “We can be satisfied with the second half. What we can't be so satisfied with is our chance conversion. If we become more efficient in that respect, we'd have probably picked up three points here today. Ultimately, we were often able to put Gladbach under pressure and played a good game overall.”

But one thing was certain. The point was huge.