Rani Khedira and Robin Knoche fired 1. FC Union Berlin to a 2-0 win over French top-flight side Nice in Austria.
The penultimate bounce match before the Bundesliga start in August was a productive 90 minutes for Union Berlin to round off the double-header this weekend. Khedira's opener came after 15 minutes while Knoche headed in from a set-piece seven minutes into the second half.
OGC Nice: Benitez; Dante (Smith 45), Kamara (Parsemain 72), Todibo, Atal (Amraoui 72), Thuram (Wade 72), Boudaoui (Daniulic 45), Gouiri, Ndoye, Da Cunha (Trouillet 72), Stengs
1. FC Union Berlin: Luthe; Dehl, Trimmel (Öztunali 65), Knoche, van Drongelen, Jaeckel; Khedira (Kaus 73), Ingvartsen, Wszolek; Behrens, Abdullahi (Sanogo 81)
Less than 24 hours after the 1-1 draw against Dynamo Kiev, it was an opportunity for the other half of Urs Fischer's squad to get some game time. Most notably, the skipper was back in position – Christopher Trimmel returning to the Union ranks following his adventures with Austria at the European Championship. The Bundesliga side started excellently and took the game to their French counterparts. After 90 seconds, Suleiman Abdullahi found space next to Dante and shot off the post with the help of Walter Benitez. From a corner kick a few minutes later, Abdullahi headed over as Union pressed for the opener. The goal was not conventional as defensive midfielder Rani Khedira tried his luck from range. The ball took a wild deflection off Kamara and beat Benitez all ends up to beat Union ahead after 15 minutes. Laurenz Dehl shot wide from a corner kick as Union looked clearly the better side in the opening half. But Nice, who finished 9th in the French top division last season, are full of talent and they started to find their groove. Andreas Luthe made an excellent save on 26 minutes from Stengs, while Christopher Trimmel and Robin Knoche combined to snuff out the danger of a rebound falling to Bouadoui. Luthe palmed away a shot on 28 minutes from Ndoye, who had drifted wide of his central striker berth. After Nice's spell of attacking play came to an end, Union were back to their usual selves. Fischer's side disrupted the game high up the park and with smart play and movement were able to get in behind the French side. On 42 minutes, Marcus Ingvartsen's cutely-flighted cross into the box was won by Kevin Behrens but Ricky van Drongelen was unable to put in the second ball from inches out.
Christophe Gaultier made two changes to his team at the interval, while Union continued with the same 11 players. Behrens was not far away from a second goal early into the half, heading over from Trimmel's corner kick. A set-piece situation was the route to goal on 53 minutes to double Union's advantage in Tirol. Ingvartsen dropped an excellent cross into the centre of the box and Knoche headed down into the bottom corner. Fischer gave Trimmel an early afternoon off with Levin Öztunali introduced after 65 minutes. Youngsters Niklas Kaus and Malick Sanogo got the nod as the game petered out in Austria. Nice switched around several times and this took much of the tempo out of the encounter. But with two goals and a clean sheet, plus 90 minutes shared around the squad, the Köpenick club will leave the camp in Tirol with a lot of optimism.
After a few more days of training, Urs Fischer and the squad will return to Köpenick midweek. The next outing for 1. FC Union Berlin is the pre-season match at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei next weekend against Athletic Bilbao.