1. FC Union Berlin’s women’s team recorded a superb 1-0 victory against their title-challengers Viktoria 89 at home in the Fritz Lesch Sportplatz on Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd of 1,500 people. Their determined performance was capped by Dina Orschmann’s first half goal but defined by Union’s resilience and fight. The win leaves them alone on top of the Regionalliga Nordost table, having won four out of four.
1. FC Union Berlin: Wagner – Metzker, K. Orschmann, Becker, Reissner – Frank, Heiseler, Moraitou (85. Görsdorf) – Youssef (81. Trojahn), Abu Sabbah (69. Rurack), D. Orschmann
FC Viktoria 1899 Berlin: Buchholz – Trapp, Dekker, Höfker, Grosch (81. Wasiak) – Barsalona, Casanovas Diaz (89. Lux), Sänger, Ehegötz (59. Statz) – Urbanek, Yaren
Goals: 1:0 D. Orschmann (27.)
That the league isn’t won over a single game is a fact as old as organised sport, itself, and the same was true here; Union didn’t take the title on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Adlershof, just as they hadn’t when they beat Viktoria by the same scoreline in Lichterfelde on the opening game of last season. But in a Regionalliga Nordost dominated by these two sides, whose resources far outstrip everyone else’s by such margins, it felt like a significant blow, nonetheless.
As the substitutes joined the first eleven for the pre-match huddle, it seemed almost pre-ordained. Union were better, more organised and fought harder for each other than their vaunted rivals all over the pitch. Naika Reissner was a case in point. Returning from a heartbreaking injury that kept her out of the Austrian U-19 squad for this summer’s European Championships, she started with a superbly timed challenge on Danya Barsalona that seemed to set the tone for the day. She dominated her wing, she tracked and hustled and harried.
But just as instructive was the long ball that Katja Orschmann hit towards her sister, Dina, only a minute later. That one sailed out of play, their telekinesis somehow not calibrated yet, but it was the first of many. Some call them long balls, dismissively, but others would just call them long passes. Reissner repeated the trick, but this time down the line, soon after.
Viktoria tried to dance their way around Union, Aylin Yaren and Luisa Urbanek full of menacing intent and delicate backheels, but every time they flickered, they would run into a brick wall. Celine Frank bristled and Athanasia Moraitou, her socks around her ankles and he shoulders back like she owned the place, strolled into tackles.
But it was Viktoria who would have the first chance, Anna Höfker’s powerful header flying just over from a corner. Union reacted, breaking through the also returning skipper, Lisa Heiseler, and the elusive Sarah Abu Sabah who needed three players to bring her down as she dribbled towards the box. Heiseler then almost caused a Viktoria own goal, merely through the strength of her own presence, as the Dutch European Championships winner, Anouk Dekker, overhit a back-pass that Inga Buchholz, flightily leaving her box in Viktoria’s goal, had to be alert to just about chase down in time.
Dina Orschmann missed an easy chance, somehow bending her shot outwards instead of inside the gaping space inside the back post, but she wouldn’t make that mistake again. When her chance came, she took it. After almost half an hour it was from a pass, of course, from her sister.
Marie Becker – who played at centre back as well as anyone, and whose tortured face as she limped off with five minutes to go was a tragic picture of studied agony – said recently that the link between the twins is a sight to be seen, and it was exactly to be as Katja advanced with the ball at her toe and spotted Dina.
She launched the ball, straight over the top of an ill-advised Viktoria defence, stepping up at the wrong time. Dina and Abu Sabah were in a foot race to get to the bouncing ball, but Dina won. She lifted it at the top of its bounce over the advancing Buchholz with her laces, a perfect finish to a clinical move.
It was after the goal that Viktoria had their best passages of play, as the half wound down and the heat rose on the baking pitch. Their ascendancy was capped by Yaren’s wonderful, 35 yard free kick, that struck Wagner’s left-hand post as the keeper was at full stretch, and Luisa Urbanek’s darting run past three players into the Union box. But the hosts would hold on until the break.
Though the chances were still few and far between after the break, it took Höfker’s excellent intervention to stop another Abu Sabah run early on, Yaren’s foul on Moraitou, and the linesman’s flag as Abu Sabah broke again to keep Union at bay.
And even when Yaren finally got the better of Becker with ten minutes to play, Marlies Sänger couldn’t get the direction on her diving header required to beat Wagner. She would hit the bar, too, having cut inside from the left. But there was always someone ther to win the ball back, be it Becker or Orschmann at the back, Nour Youssef or Reissner on the wings.
Union’s head coach, Ailien Poese, talked of the courage of her players, to not get caught on the back foot, and to keep on pushing, even when it was at risk to their hard-fought lead. “In the end,” she said, “I'm just thrilled with our mentality.”
As well she might be. It was a superb win, and if it doesn't mean the title has been won - whoch it certainly doesn't - they can at least celebrate, knowing that they've made a good start towards it.